Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Tectonic implications of space-time patterns of Cenozoic magmatism in the western United States

January 1, 1976

Locations of 2,100 radiometrically dated igneous rocks were plotted on a series of 20 maps, each representing an interval within the period 80 m.y. B.P. to present. Derivative maps showing the distributions in space and time of dated granitic intrusive rocks, silicic lavas and domes, ash-flow tuffs, andesitic-dacitic rocks, and basalts depict well the two main petrogenetic assemblages noted previously by others: (1) mainly intermediate andesitic-dacitic suites, including associated granitic intrusive rocks, silicic extrusive rocks, and minor basaltic lavas, are interpreted as reflecting plate interactions related to subduction along the continental margin; and (2) bimodal suites, dominantly basaltic but with minor silicic extrusive rocks, are interpreted as reflecting extensional tectonics.

Space-time distribution of the two assemblages suggests that magmatic arcs extended continously parallel to the continental margin from Canada to Mexico in latest Mesozoic and in Oligocene times. An early Cenozoic null in magmatism in the Great Basin may delineate the region where subduction was arrested temporarily by development of the proto-San Andreas fault as a transform in coastal California or, alternatively, may reflect complex subsurface configurations of subducted plates. The late Cenozoic transition from subduction-related magmatism to extention-related basaltic volcanism in the southern Cordillera occurred at different times in different areas in harmony with current concepts about the migration of the Mendocino triple junction as the modern San Andreas transform fault was formed. The plots also reveal the existence of several discrete magmatic loci where igneous activity of various kinds was characteristically more intense and long-lived than elsewhere.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1976
Title Tectonic implications of space-time patterns of Cenozoic magmatism in the western United States
DOI 10.1016/0012-821X(76)90189-8
Authors W.S. Snyder, W.R. Dickinson, M. L. Silberman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Series Number
Index ID 70011177
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization