Abstract

The eastern California shear zone (ECSZ) and Walker Lane represent an evolving segment of the Pacific–North America plate boundary in the western United States. Understanding temporal variations in strain accumulation and release along plate boundary structures is critical to assessing how deformation is accommodated throughout the lithosphere. Late Pleistocene displacement along the Lone Mountain fault suggests that the Silver Peak–Lone Mountain (SPLM) extensional complex is an important structure in accommodating and transferring strain within the ECSZ and Walker Lane. Using geologic and geomorphic mapping, differential global positioning system surveys, and terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) geochronology, we determined rates of extension across the Lone Mountain fault in western Nevada. The Lone Mountain fault displaces the northwestern Lone Mountain and Weepah Hills piedmonts and is the northeastern component of the SPLM extensional complex, a series of down-to-the-northwest normal faults. We mapped seven distinct alluvial fan deposits and dated three of the surfaces using 10Be TCN geochronology, yielding ages of 16.5 ± 1.2 ka, 92 ± 9 ka, and 137 ± 25 ka for the Q3b, Q2c, and Q2b deposits, respectively. The ages were combined with scarp profile measurements across the displaced fans to obtain minimum rates of extension; the Q2b and Q2c surfaces yield an extension rate between 0.1 ± 0.1 and 0.2 ± 01 mm/yr and the Q3b surface yields a rate of 0.2 ± 0.1–0.4 ± 0.1 mm/yr, depending on the dip of the fault. Active extension on the Lone Mountain fault suggests that it helps partition strain off of the major strike-slip faults in the northern ECSZ and transfers deformation to the east around the Mina deflection and northward into the Walker Lane. Combining our results with estimates from other faults accommodating dextral shear in the northern ECSZ reveals an apparent discrepancy between short- and long-term rates of strain accumulation and release. If strain rates have remained constant since the late Pleistocene, this could reflect transient strain accumulation, similar to the Mojave segment of the ECSZ. However, our data also suggest a potential increase in strain rates between ca. 92 ka and ca. 17 ka, and possibly to present day, which may also help explain the mismatch between long- and short-term rates of deformation in the region.

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