Crustal structure and composition of the southern Foothills Metamorphic Belt, Sierra Nevada, California, from seismic data

Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
By:  and 



The Foothills Metamorphic Belt is an accreted terrane consisting of Paleozoic and Mesozoic metamorphic rocks that separates the Great Valley from the Sierra Nevada batholith in northern and central California. Until recently, the only available geophysical data for this area were reconnaissance refraction surveys, and gravity and magnetic data. New insights into the structure of the deep crust are provided by the interpretation of a seismic reflection profile (CC‐2), acquired in 1984 by the U.S. Geological Survey at the southern end of the Foothills Metamorphic Belt. Our interpretation is constrained by a new seismic velocity model derived from coincident microearthquake data. Earthquake hypocenters that occur at unusually great depths of 12 to 30 km make the data set particularly useful for obtaining deep crustal velocity information. The velocity model shows velocities of 5.2 to 6.3 km s−1 for the upper 12 km of the crust, and 6.7 to 6.8 km s−1 from 12 km to an estimated Moho at 32 km. The upper crustal velocities correspond to metamorphic rocks and serpentinites of the Foothills Metamorphic Belt as well as to diorites and granodiorites of the Sierra Nevada batholith, while the lower crustal velocities are interpreted to represent intermediate to mafic granulites. The majority of the earthquake hypocenters as well as a 6.7 km s−1 layer in the velocity model corresponds in depth to thick zones of west dipping midcrustal reflections that may represent major shear zones formed during the late Jurassic Nevadan orogeny or synbatholithic ductile shear zones that accommodated crustal extension associated with batholith intrusion. These reflections are truncated updip by an inferred subvertical contact that coincides with the western edge of the Sierra Nevada batholith and the southward trace of the Bear Mountains fault zone. The updip truncation of midcrustal shear zones and high lower crustal velocities indicate that strike‐slip faulting and magmatic underplating can be important processes during the docking and welding of an accreted terrane.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Crustal structure and composition of the southern Foothills Metamorphic Belt, Sierra Nevada, California, from seismic data
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
DOI 10.1029/93JB02755
Volume 99
Issue B4
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 6865
Last page 6880
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Sierra Nevada
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