Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


LE POURHIET, Laetitia, ISTeP, UPMC, Paris, 75005, France and SALEEBY, Jason, Tectonics Observatory, California Institute Technology, Mail Stop 100-23, Pasadena, CA 91125-0001,

The Southern Sierra Nevada mountains range rapidly uplifted at ≈ 3.5 Ma simultaneously with a pulse of basaltic volcanism. Xenoliths recovered from volcanics indicate that the range lost a dense crustal root after the Miocene. The vertical motions and removal of the root have been linked to a fast seismic velocity anomaly that extends ≈ 200 km into the mantle but is offset to the west of the range. With visco-elasto-plastic thermo-mechanical numerical models, we have tested the influence of crustal strength on the kinematics of removal and on the amount of associated uplift. We find that delamination of the dense root is the most likely mechanism for gravitational instability to occur.

In this class of models, the Great Valley deforms by flexure in response to the load exerted by the delaminated root. We therefore explore the influence of the strength of the Great Valley on the wavelength of the flexure and complement 2D models by flexural 3D models. The study shows that for a Te=15 km, the flexural anomaly resulting from the drip pull outlines the limit between the area where the Quaternary sediments are found on-lapping or off-lapping the western flank of the Sierra.

On the Western edge of the Sierra Nevada micro plate, the flexural anomaly crosses the San Andreas Fault. Where uplift is predicted Miocene strata are eroding, and where subsidence is predicted Quaternary sediments are at the surface. These geological limits also coincide with the limit of the creeping segment of the Fault. Geological evidence (especially fold kinematics) suggests that the extreme weakness of the San Andreas Fault in that area started during the Pliocene (~3 Ma). This timing also coincides with the rapid uplift of the Sierra Nevada.

Simple coincidences or real mechanical link between these two anomalous behaviors? We will present and discuss how flexure could promote lithostatic fluid pressure in the depth range of 7 to 15 km along the creeping segment of the fault, and therefore influence the seismic behavior of the fault and, compare the prediction of this model with various sets of observations.