Exciting news! We're transitioning to the Statewide California Earthquake Center. Our new website is under construction, but we'll continue using this website for SCEC business in the meantime. We're also archiving the Southern Center site to preserve its rich history. A new and improved platform is coming soon!

Crustal thickness of the Peninsular Ranges and Gulf Extensional Province in the Californias

Jennifer Lewis, Steven M. Day, Harold Magistrale, Raúl R. Castro, Luciana Astiz, Cecilio Rebollar Bustamante, Jennifer Eakins, Frank L. Vernon, & James N. Brune

Published July 1, 2001, SCEC Contribution #521

We estimate crustal thickness along an east-west transect of the Baja California peninsula and Gulf of California, Mexico, and investigate its relationship to surface elevation and crustal extension. We derive Moho depth estimates from P-to-S converted phases identified on teleseismic recordings at 11 temporary broadband seismic stations deployed at ∼31°N latitude. Depth to the Moho is ∼33 (±3) km near the Pacific coast of Baja California and increases gradually toward the east, reaching a maximum depth of ∼40 (±4) km beneath the western part of the Peninsular Ranges batholith. The crust then thins rapidly under the topographically high eastern Peninsular Ranges and across the Main Gulf Escarpment. Crustal thickness is ∼15–18 (±2) km within and on the margins of the Gulf of California. The Moho shallowing beneath the eastern Peninsular Ranges represents an average apparent westward dip of ∼25°. This range of Moho depths within the Peninsula Ranges, as well as the sharp ∼east-west gradient in depth in the eastern part of the range, is in agreement with earlier observations from north of the international border. The Moho depth variations do not correlate with topography of the eastern batholith. These findings suggest that a steeply dipping Moho is a regional feature beneath the eastern Peninsular Ranges and that a local Airy crustal root does not support the highest elevations. We suggest that Moho shallowing under the eastern Peninsular Ranges reflects extensional deformation of the lower crust in response to adjacent rifting of the Gulf Extensional Province that commenced in the late Cenozoic. Support of the eastern Peninsular Ranges topography may be achieved through a combination of flexural support and lateral density variations in the crust and/or upper mantle.

Lewis, J., Day, S. M., Magistrale, H., Castro, R. R., Astiz, L., Rebollar Bustamante, C., Eakins, J., Vernon, F. L., & Brune, J. N. (2001). Crustal thickness of the Peninsular Ranges and Gulf Extensional Province in the Californias. Journal of Geophysical Research, 106(B7), 13599-13611.