Mantle flow distribution beneath the California margin

Sylvain Barbot

Published September 8, 2020, SCEC Contribution #10870

Although the surface deformation of tectonic plate boundaries is well determined by geological and geodetic measurements, the pattern of flow below the lithosphere remains poorly constrained. We use the crustal velocity field of the Plate Boundary Observatory to illuminate the distribution of horizontal flow beneath the California margin. At lower-crustal and upper-mantle depths, the boundary between the Pacific and North American plates is off-centered from the San Andreas fault, concentrated in a region that encompasses the trace of nearby active faults. A major step is associated with return flow below the Eastern California Shear Zone, leading to the extrusion of the Mojave block and a re-distribution of fault activity since the Pleistocene. Major earthquakes in California have occurred above the regions of current plastic strain accumulation. Deformation is mechanically coupled from the crust to the asthenosphere, with mantle flow overlaid by a kinematically consistent network of faults in the brittle crust.

Barbot, S. (2020). Mantle flow distribution beneath the California margin. Nature Communications, 11(1). doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18260-8.