Abstract

Late Miocene–Pliocene (8–3 Ma) olivine basalt lavas, dated in this study by the 40Ar/39Ar method, have been faulted and tilted on both the east and west sides of the Warner Range of NE California, which is itself a tilted block rising to 2960 m at its crest that is composed of Miocene-Oligocene lavas and volcaniclastic rocks. The late Miocene–Pliocene lavas, distinctively poor in K2O and rich in MgO, are called low-K olivine tholeiites and have a different mantle source region than that of the older subduction-related lavas of the main Warner Range. Hays Canyon Range (max. elev. 2400 m) lies to the east of the Warner Range, and the broad Surprise Valley separates the two fault-bounded ranges. Middle Miocene (ca. 15 Ma) basic lavas, with a small easterly dip, cap the Hays Canyon Range and overlie Oligocene silicic ash-flow deposits and a basaltic andesite spatter volcano. Middle Miocene basic lavas also form the crest of the Warner Range and its westerly dip slope (∼15°). Nearly horizontal basic lavas of the same age are also found on both sides of the Warner Range, and it is a plausible conclusion that these middle Miocene basalts were a contiguous group before faulting and uplift of the Warner Range.

Derived estimates of uplift rates (∼1 mm/yr) of the Warner Range indicate that uplift could have been initiated at ca. 4 Ma, a period of the most voluminous eruption of low-K olivine tholeiite lavas. If the slower Cretaceous exhumation rate of the Sierra Nevada (0.5–1.0 mm/yr) is applied to the total offset of the Warner Range (4270 m), and it did not vary with time, then the uplift of the Warner Range was initiated at ca. 8 Ma, which coincides with the age of the oldest low-K olivine tholeiite lava (8 Ma). Low-K olivine tholeiites require a hot shallow asthenospheric source, and it is the rise of this hot mantle that is presumed to have caused the uplift of the Warner Range. Whether or not the widespread eruption of small volumes of Pliocene low-K olivine tholeiites in central and eastern Oregon is associated with crustal uplift is unknown.

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