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Lithospheric Thinning Beneath Rifted Regions of Southern California

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Science  06 Oct 2011:
1208898
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208898

Abstract

The stretching and break-up of tectonic plates by rifting controls 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.