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Tectonic development and evolution of the central Columbia Plateau since middle Miocene time is a product of dynamic interplay among (1) the eruption and emplacement of the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG), (2) the subsidence of the area encompassing the Yakima fold belt subprovince, (3) the growth of the Yakima folds, and (4) the influence of regional structures transecting the fold belt, specifically the Hog Ranch-Naneum Ridge anticline and the Cle Elum–Wallula disturbed zone.

Subsidence of the Yakima fold belt subprovince began prior to the eruption of the CRBG and has continued from Miocene time to the present. The rate of subsidence kept pace with the rate of CRBG flow emplacement, decreasing as CRBG volcanism waned. Simultaneously, anticlinal fold growth within the Yakima fold belt occurred under north–south compression and also decreased as the rates of subsidence and eruptions of lava declined. Paleomagnetic data indicate fold growth was accompanied by local clockwise rotation of basalt within the anticlines.

The tectonic and volcanic histories of the central Columbia Plateau are interrelated and imply a common cause. The structural rotation and north-south compression, and thus fold growth, are interpreted to result from oblique subduction along a converging plate margin. The coincidence of the timing and rates of fold growth, subsidence of the central Columbia Plateau, and basalt production rates suggest that CRBG volcanism is primarily a product of oblique subduction off western North America.

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