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Mesozoic plate-motion history below the northeast Pacific Ocean from seismic images of the subducted Farallon slab

Abstract

The high-resolution seismic imaging of subducted oceanic slabs1,2 has become a powerful tool for reconstructing palaeogeography3. The images can now be interpreted quantitatively by comparison with models of the general circulation of the Earth's mantle4. Here we use a three-dimensional spherical computer model of mantle convection5,6 to show that seismic images of the subducted Farallon plate provide strong evidence for a Mesozoic period of low-angle subduction under North America. Such a period of low-angle subduction has been invoked independently to explain Rocky Mountain uplift far inland from the plate boundary during the Laramide orogeny7. The computer simulations also allow us to locate the largely unknown Kula–Farallon spreading plate boundary, the location of which is important for inferring the trajectories of ‘suspect’ terrain across the Pacific basin8.

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Figure 1: Heterogeneity structure (with mean removed) at 900 km, 1,100 km, 1,300 km and 1,500 km depth.
Figure 2: Topographic map of North America where the estimated eastern extent of regions affected by low-angle Farallon subduction is marked with a line of circles28.
Figure 3: Palaeogeographic map of the northeast Pacific for the time between 64 Myr and 74 Myr ago11.

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Acknowledgements

We thank P. Bird and E. Humphreys for helpful comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hans-Peter Bunge.

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Bunge, HP., Grand, S. Mesozoic plate-motion history below the northeast Pacific Ocean from seismic images of the subducted Farallon slab. Nature 405, 337–340 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35012586

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