A new method based on the joint inversion of receiver functions and surface-wave phase velocities results in well-determined shear-velocity structures that are consistent with the compressional-wave structure, gravity, heat flow, and elevation data in the northern Basin and Range. This new inversion method takes advantage of average-velocity information present in the surface-wave method and differential velocity information contained in the receiver function method, thus minimizing the nonuniqueness problem that results from the velocity-depth trade-off.
An unusually thick (38 km) and relatively faster crust and upper mantle are found in central and eastern Nevada compared to the thin (28 to 34 km) and slower crust and upper mantle of the western Basin and Range. We interpret the regions of thicker and faster crust and upper mantle as zones that have undergone less Cenozoic extension relative to the surrounding regions to the west and north. The thick crust and consequently greater depth to the dense mantle material is consistent with the gravity low pattern in central and eastern Nevada. Simple gravity modeling shows both local and regional isostatic compensation occur within 40 km of the surface, indicating a near-classical Airy type of compensation in the province.
We analyze in detail the shear-wave (S-wave) velocity model derived from the receiver functions at station BMN and compressional-wave (P-wave) velocity models derived from the 1986 PASSCAL experiment in northwestern Nevada. The most interesting feature of these models is the presence of negative-velocity gradients in the S-wave model with no corresponding velocity decrease in the P-wave models between depths of 10 and 24 km. This combined velocity model may be explained by high pore fluid pressures at these depths. This model favors a layered fluid porosity model proposed in the literature to explain extensive middle- to lower-crust continental seismic reflections and high electrical conductivity. An upper-mantle, gradational low-velocity zone is present between 32 and 38 km in the S-wave model. This upper-mantle, shear-wave, low-velocity zone is consistent with partial melt, which may be the source material for magmatic underplating in this region.