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Lithospheric Thinning Beneath Rifted Regions of Southern California

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Science  11 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6057, pp. 783-787
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208898

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Abstract

The stretching and break-up of tectonic plates by rifting control the evolution of continents and oceans, but the processes by which lithosphere deforms and accommodates strain during rifting remain enigmatic. Using scattering of teleseismic shear waves beneath rifted zones and adjacent areas in Southern California, we resolve the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary and lithospheric thickness variations to directly constrain this deformation. Substantial and laterally abrupt lithospheric thinning beneath rifted regions suggests efficient strain localization. In the Salton Trough, either the mantle lithosphere has experienced more thinning than the crust, or large volumes of new lithosphere have been created. Lack of a systematic offset between surface and deep lithospheric deformation rules out simple shear along throughgoing unidirectional shallow-dipping shear zones, but is consistent with symmetric extension of the lithosphere.

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