Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Internal structure of the Sierra Nevada batholith based on specific gravity and gravity measurements

January 16, 1993

About 6,000 specific‐gravity (SG) measurements of samples collected from nearly 200 granitic plutons comprising the central Sierra Nevada batholith yield a SG contour map across the batholith from 36.25° to 38° north latitude. With notable exceptions, SG decreases from values generally greater than 2.7 in the west to less than 2.6 over a few small areas of high‐silica, high‐potassium granites near the east edge. A good correlation between measured SG and analyzed weight percent SiO2 enables estimation of average silica variations across the batholith. The average SG is 2.69 corresponding to an average of 68 wt. % SiO2 for the 18,000 km² central part of the batholith.

A 1‐km gridded version of the SG measurements has been used to generate a series of synthetic gravity maps, assuming that the SG of rocks at the surface extends unchanged to various depths. The synthetic map computed for a depth of 10 km shows the best correspondence with the isostatic residual gravity map indicating that variations in the observed gravity residuals are largely caused by SG variations of the plutonic rocks exposed at the surface that apparently extend downward to an average depth of about 10 km.

Although the 10‐km synthetic gravity map gives the best overall fit to the observed gravity data, comparison of individual anomalies indicates that the bottoms of the plutons as defined by SG variations at the surface are generally shallower along the west edge of the Sierra Nevada (7±2 km) and deeper in the younger and more felsic eastern part (12±3 km). These depths do not necessarily represent a distinct base of the Sierra Nevada batholith. They may indicate the depth below which density homogenization occurs, either by igneous, or possibly, structural processes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1993
Title Internal structure of the Sierra Nevada batholith based on specific gravity and gravity measurements
DOI 10.1029/93GL01379
Authors H.W. Oliver, Bryan Moore, R. F. Sikora
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geophysical Research Letters
Index ID 70207890
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center