Abstract

Large Cenozoic clockwise rotations defined by paleomagnetic data are an established fact in the Pacific Northwest, and many tectonic models have been proposed to explain them, including (1) rotation of accreted oceanic microplates during docking, (2) dextral shear between North America and northward-moving oceanic plates to the west, and (3) microplate rotation in front of an expanding Basin and Range province. Stratigraphic onlap relations and local structure indicate that microplate rotation during docking was not a major contributor to the observed rotations. Coast Range structures, Basin and Range extension, and paleomagnetic data from middle Miocene (15 Ma) Coast Range rocks indicate that dextral shear is responsible for at least 40% of the post-15 Ma rotation of the Coast Range and that Basin and Range extension is responsible for the remainder. Reconstructions based on extrapolation of this ratio back to 37 and 50 Ma are consistent with reconstructions based on paleomagnetic and stratigraphic relations in older rocks and suggest that dextral shear has, been a significant contributor to rotation during most of Tertiary time. Changes in the dextral-shear rotation rate over the past 50 m.y. correlate directly with changes in the velocity of the Farallon plate parallel to the coast and provide a strong argument for oblique subduction as the driving mechanism. Continental reconstructions incorporating shear may provide constraints on the rate of extension in the northernmost Basin and Range region and suggest 17% extension since 15 Ma, 39% since 37 Ma, and 72% since 50 Ma near latitude 42°N.

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