Evolutionary aspects of lithosphere discontinuity structure in the Western U.S.

Alan Levander*, Meghan S. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


We have produced common conversion point (CCP) stacked Ps and Sp receiver function image volumes of the Moho and lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB) beneath the western United States using Transportable Array data. The large image volumes and the diversity of tectonic environments they encompass allow us to investigate evolution of these structural discontinuities. The Moho is a nearly continuous topographic surface, whereas the LAB is not and the seismic images show a more complex expression. The first order change in LAB depth in the western U.S. occurs along the Cordilleran hingeline, the former Laurasian passive margin along the southwestern Precambrian North American terranes. The LAB is about 50% deeper to the east of the hingeline than to the west, with most of the increase in LAB thickness being in the mantle lithosphere. We infer that the Moho and the LAB are Late Mesozoic or Cenozoic everywhere west of the hingeline, modified during Farallon subduction and its aftermath. Between the hingeline and the Rocky Mountain Front, the LAB, and to a lesser extent the Moho, have been partially reset during the Cenozoic by processes that continue today. Seismicity and recent volcanism in the interior of the western U.S. are concentrated along gradients in crustal and/or lithospheric thickness, for example the hingeline, and the eastern edge of the coastal volcanic-magmatic terranes. To us this suggests that lateral gradients in integrated lithospheric strength focus deformation. Similarly, areas conjectured to be the sites of convective downwellings and associated volcanism are located along gradients in regional lithosphere thickness.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberQ0AK07
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


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