Geodynamic evolution of southwestern North America since the Late Eocene

Alireza Bahadori, & William E. Holt

Published November 18, 2019, SCEC Contribution #11755

Slab rollback, lithospheric body forces, or evolution of plate boundary conditions are strongly debated as possible lithospheric driving mechanisms for Cenozoic extension in southwestern North America. By incorporating paleo-topography, lithospheric structure, and paleo-boundary conditions, we develop a complete geodynamic model that quantifies lithospheric deviatoric stresses and predicts extension and shear history since Late Eocene. We show that lithospheric body forces together with influence of change-over from subduction to transtensional boundary conditions from Late Eocene to Early Miocene were the primary driving factors controlling direction and magnitude of extensional deviatoric stresses that produced topographic collapse. After paleo-highlands collapsed, influence of Pacific-North America plate motion and associated deformation style along the plate boundary became increasingly important from Middle Miocene to present. Smaller-scale convection stress effects from slab rollback and associated mantle flow played only a minor role. However, slab rollback guided deformation rate through introduction of melts and fluids that impacted rheology.

Bahadori, A., & Holt, W. E. (2019). Geodynamic evolution of southwestern North America since the Late Eocene. Nature Communications, 10(1). doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12950-8.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Stress and Deformation Over Time (SDOT)