Recent geophysical studies in the southern Sierra Nevada found no significant Airy-type crustal root; the mountain range seems largely supported by the buoyant asthenosphere beneath an abnormally thin mantle lithosphere. We suggest that the late Cenozoic uplift of the Sierra Nevada may have resulted from mantle upwelling under the Basin and Range province, which tends to push ductile material within the surrounding lithosphere, causing it to flow away and downward. Numerical modeling indicates that such ductile flow could lead to pronounced lithospheric thinning under the High Sierra and lithospheric thickening under the western Sierra Nevada, comparable to the observed structure.

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