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Cenozoic plate motions and the volcano-tectonic evolution of western Oregon and Washington

April 1, 1984

A refined northeast Pacific plate-motion model provides a framework for analysis of the Tertiary volcanic and tectonic history of western Oregon and Washington. We examine three possible models for the origin of the allochthonous Paleocene and Eocene oceanic basalt basement of the Coast Range: (1) accretion to the continent of hot spot generated linear seamount chains; (2) accretion of thick oceanic crust and seamounts generated during Farallon-Kula spreading reorganizations between 61 and 48 Ma; and (3) eruption of basalt during oblique rifting of the continental margin as it overrode an active Yellowstone hot spot on the Kula-Farallon ridge. The plate model suggests that microplate rotation and accretion of hot spot generated linear aseismic ridges cannot be easily reconciled with rapid northeast motion of the KuIa and Farallon plates and the well-established paleomagnetic rotations. Following emplacement of the Coast Range basement, changes in the character of forearc, back arc and Cascade arc volcanism correlate with a marked decrease in the rate of Farallon-North America convergence between 43 and and 28 Ma. This slowdown may be responsible for (1) westward stepping of the volcanic arc front from the Challis axis to a Cascade axis at about 42 Ma; (2) a subsequent episode of increased ash flow tuff volcanism and extension in the Cascade arc between 37 and 18 Ma that correlates with the “ignimbrite flare-up” in the Basin and Range; and (3) a period of extensional basaltic and alkalic volcanism and intrusion in the Coast Range between 44 and 28 Ma. Reduction of the convergence rate and westward stepping of the flexure in the subducted slab may have reduced the horizontal compressive stress on the continent, allowing increased injection of magma into the crust, development of large, shallow magma chambers, and the outbreak of extensional volcanism over a large area behind the Farallon-North America subduction zone.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1984
Title Cenozoic plate motions and the volcano-tectonic evolution of western Oregon and Washington
DOI 10.1029/TC003i002p00275
Authors Ray Wells, David C. Engebretson, P. D. Snavely, R. S. Coe
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Tectonics
Index ID 70230758
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center