Dynamics of the Pacific-North American Plate Boundary in the Western United States

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Science  04 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5454, pp. 834-836
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5454.834

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The vertically averaged deviatoric stress tensor field within the western United States was determined with topographic data, geoid data, recent global positioning system observations, and strain rate magnitudes and styles from Quaternary faults. Gravitational potential energy differences control the large fault-normal compression on the California coast. Deformation in the Basin and Range is driven, in part, by gravitational potential energy differences, but extension directions there are modified by plate interaction stresses. The California shear zone has relatively low vertically averaged viscosity of about 1021 pascal·seconds, whereas the Basin and Range has a higher vertically averaged viscosity of 1022pascal·seconds.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: flesch{at}

  • Present address: Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.

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