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Deformation of the continental flood-basalt in the westernmost portion of the Columbia Plateau has resulted in regularly spaced anticlinal ridges. The periodic nature of the anticlines is characterized by dividing the Yakima fold belt into three domains on the basis of spacings and orientations: (1) the northern domain, made up of the eastern segments of Umtanum Ridge, the Saddle Mountains, and the Frenchman Hills; (2) the central domain, made up of segments of Rattlesnake Ridge, the eastern segments of Horse Heaven Hills, Yakima Ridge, the western segments of Umtanum Ridge, Cleman Mountain, Bethel Ridge, and Manastash Ridge; and (3) the southern domain, made up of Gordon Ridge, the Columbia Hills, the western segment of Horse Heaven Hills, Toppenish Ridge, and Ahtanum Ridge. The northern, central, and southern domains have mean spacings of 19.6, 11.6, and 27.6 km, respectively, with a total range of 4 to 36 km and a mean of 20.4 km (n = 203). The basalts are modeled as a multilayer of thin linear elastic plates with frictionless contacts, resting on a mechanically weak elastic substrate of finite thickness, that has buckled at a critical wavelength of folding. Free slip between layers is assumed, based on the presence of thin sedimentary interbeds in the Grande Ronde Basalt separating groups of flows with an average thickness of roughly 280 m. Many of the observed spacings can be explained by this model, given that: (1) the ratio in Young’s modulus between the basalt and underlying sediments E/E o ⩾ 1,000, (2) the thickness of the Grande Ronde Basalt was between 1,200 and 2,300 m when the present wavelengths were established, and (3) the average thickness of a layer in the multilayer is between 200 and 400 m. The lack of well-developed anticline-syncline pairs in the shape of a sinusoid may be the result of plastic yielding in the cores of the anticlines after initial deformation of the basalts into low amplitude folds. Elastic buckling coupled with plastic yielding confined to the hinge area could account for the asymmetric fold geometry of many of the anticlines.

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