Active tectonics of northwestern U.S. inferred from GPS-derived surface velocities


Corresponding author: R. McCaffrey, Department of Geology, Portland State University, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207 USA. (


[1] Surface velocities derived from GPS observations from 1993 to 2011 at several hundred sites across the deforming northwestern United States are used to further elucidate the region's active tectonics. The new velocities reveal that the clockwise rotations, relative to North America, seen in Oregon and western Washington from earlier GPS observations, continue to the east to include the Snake River Plain of Idaho and south into the Basin and Range of northern Nevada. Regional-scale rotation is attributed to gravitationally driven extension in the Basin and Range and Pacific-North America shear transferred through the Walker Lane belt aided by potentially strong pinning below the Idaho Batholith. The large rotating section comprising eastern Oregon displays very low internal deformation rates despite seismological evidence for a thin crust, warm mantle, organized mantle flow, and elevated topography. The observed disparity between mantle and surface kinematics suggests that either little stress acts between them (low basal shear) or that the crust is strong relative to the mantle. The rotation of the Oregon block impinges on Washington across the Yakima fold-thrust belt where shortening occurs in a closing-fan style. Elastic fault locking at the Cascadia subduction zone is reevaluated using the GPS velocities and recently published uplift rates. The 18 year GPS and 80 year leveling data can both be matched with a common locking model suggesting that the locking has been stable over many decades. The rate of strain accumulation is consistent with hundreds of years between great subduction events.