Origin of High Mountains in the Continents: The Southern Sierra Nevada

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Science  12 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5246, pp. 190-193
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5246.190


Active and passive seismic experiments show that the southern Sierra, despite standing 1.8 to 2.8 kilometers above its surroundings, is underlain by crust of similar seismic thickness, about 30 to 40 kilometers. Thermobarometry of xenolith suites and magnetotelluric profiles indicate that the upper mantle is eclogitic to depths of 60 kilometers beneath the western and central parts of the range, but little subcrustal lithosphere is present beneath the eastern High Sierra and adjacent Basin and Range. These and other data imply the crust of both the High Sierra and Basin and Range thinned by a factor of 2 since 20 million years ago, at odds with purported late Cenozoic regional uplift of some 2 kilometers.