Whether the high seismic-velocity anomalies in the upper mantle under California represent cold downwelling mantle flow or fragments of the subducted Farallon plate has important implications for mantle dynamics related to the tectonic history of western North America. We investigate the former possibility by simulating the time-dependent thermal evolution in the asthenosphere beneath California, in the wake of the migrating Mendocino triple junction (MTJ), using a two-dimensional model that represents a transect parallel to the direction of the MTJ migration. For viscosity within the typical range for the asthenosphere beneath active tectonic regions (1×1018 - 2×1019 Pa s), our model predicts vigorous small-scale convection characterized by periodic formation of cold downwelling flows near the southern edge of the migrating Gorda plate. Within the relevant time frame, the predicted convective thermal structures are comparable to the major mantle features shown by seismic imaging.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)