Erosional remnants of volcanic fields in west-central California form a linear northwest-trending belt growing younger in age to the northwest. Major fields within the belt are represented by the Neenach Volcanics, Pinnacles Volcanic Formation, Quien Sabe Volcanics, volcanic rocks in the Berkeley Hills, Tolay Volcanics, Sonoma Volcanics, and Clear Lake Volcanics. Dispersion in the age-distance relation is reduced by restoration of inferred offsets on transecting right-lateral fault systems. The offsets include 115 km on the San Gregorio–Hosgri fault, 314 km on the San Andreas fault, 43 km on the Hayward-Rodgers Creek fault, and 28 km on the Carneros-Franklin-Sunol-Calaveras fault. On the basis of the age and restored position of the volcanic rocks, we judge that the locus of initial active volcanism migrated northwestward ∼3.75 cm/yr from 25 to 12 Ma, and ∼1.35 cm/yr from 12 Ma to the present.
The volcanic rocks apparently formed south of the northwardly retreating edge of the subducted part of the Juan de Fuca plate, corroborating one corollary of a published model of an expanding hole in the subducted Farallon-Juan de Fuca-Cocos plate. The present position of the locus of melting at Clear Lake, California, requires substantial overthrusting of the Juan de Fuca plate by the Pacific plate, as was postulated on the basis of foreshortening of magnetic anomalies in the Gorda basin. The change in rate of northwestward migration ∼12 Ma reflects a change in spreading direction of the Juan de Fuca plate vis-à-vis the Pacific plate, previously recognized from changes in orientation of oceanic magnetic anomalies. From the migration rates, it can be inferred that the relative movement between the Pacific plate and the westernmost fringe of the North American plate averaged ∼3.5 cm/yr from 27 m.y. ago to the present.