Understanding an evolving diffuse plate boundary with geodesy and geochronology
Lifton, Zachery Meyer
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Understanding spatial and temporal variations in strain accumulation and release along plate boundaries is a fundamental problem in tectonics. Short-term and long-term slip rates are expected to be equal if the regional stress field remains unchanged over time, yet discrepancies between modern geodetic (decadal time scale) slip rates and long-term geologic (10^3 to 10^6 years) slip rates have been observed on parts of the Pacific-North American plate boundary system. Contemporary geodetic slip rates are observed to be ~2 times greater than late Pleistocene geologic slip rates across the southern Walker Lane. I use a combination of GPS geodesy, detailed field geologic mapping, high-resolution LiDAR geodetic imaging, and terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide geochronology to investigate the observed discrepancy between long- and short-term slip rates. I find that the present day slip rate derived from GPS geodesy across the Walker Lane at ~37.5°N is 10.6 ± 0.5 mm/yr. GPS data suggest that much of the observed discrepancy occurs west of the White Mountains fault zone. New dextral slip rates on the White Mountains fault zone of 1.1 ± 0.1 mm/yr since 755 ka, 1.9 +0.5/-0.4 mm/yr since 75-115 ka, 1.9 +0.5/-0.4 mm/yr since 38.4 ± 9.0 ka, and 1.8 +2.8/-0.7 mm/yr since 6.2 ± 3.8 ka are significantly faster than previous estimates and suggest that slip rates there have remained constant since the middle Pleistocene. On the Lone Mountain fault I calculate slip rates of 0.8 ± 0.1 mm/yr since 14.6 ± 1.0 ka and 0.7 ± 0.1 mm/yr since 8.0 ± 0.5 ka, which suggest that extension in the Silver Peak-Lone Mountain extensional complex has increased dramatically since the late Pleistocene.