Dynamic lithosphere within the great basin

Ryan C. Porter, Matthew J. Fouch, Nicholas C. Schmerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


To place new constraints on the short-term, broad-scale lithospheric evolution of plate interiors, we utilize broadband seismic data from the Great Basin region of the Western United States to produce high-resolution images of the crust and upper mantle. Our results suggest that parts of the Great Basin lithosphere has been removed, likely via inflow of hot asthenosphere as subduction of the Farallon spreading center occurred and the region extended. In our proposed model, fragments of thermal lithosphere removed by this process were gravitationally unstable and subsequently sank into the underlying mantle, leaving behind less dense, stronger, chemically depleted lithosphere. This destabilization process promotes volcanism, deformation, and the reworking of continental lithosphere inboard from plate margins. Our results provide evidence for a new mechanism of lithospheric evolution that is likely common and significant in postsubduction tectonic settings. Key Points The Great Basin structure is analyzed using multiple seismic imaging techniques Chemical and thermal lithosphere persist beneath western North America Downwellings have modified the Great Basin lithosphere

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1128-1146
Number of pages19
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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