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Abstract

The geomorphology and Quaternary geology of the Basin and Range Province in California are the result of a complex interplay between tectonic and climatic influences. The general characteristics of the regional landscape (e.g., the size, shape, orientation, and spatial distribution of the basins and ranges) were created by at least two phases of middle to late Cenozoic extensional tectonism. In response to this tectonism, late Tertiary and Quaternary clastic sediments were stripped from the actively forming uplands and deposited in the intervening basins. In areas such as the southwest Great Basin and the Salton Trough where rapid extension has continued to the present day, fill continues to accumulate in subsiding basins as active tectonism continues to dominate landscape and stratigraphy. However, throughout most of the Mojave Desert, where extensional tectonism has been largely inactive since at least latest Miocene time, the effects of climate have assumed a more important role regarding landscape evolution. In this area, the larger topographic elements (e.g., the mountain ranges and intermontane basins) were formed by middle to late Miocene tectonism, but the patterns, rates, and types of surficial processes that have operated since that time largely reflect climate and climatic change. Thus, the landscape of the southwestern Basin and Range presents a striking and instructive juxtaposition of tectonic and climatic elements.

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