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The active tectonic regime of northwestern California changes abruptly from transform motion to subduction at the Mendocino Triple Junction. Northward migration of the triple junction has been a major factor in the tectonic history of the continental margin of California since the Oligocene and continues at present. Understanding the effects of triple junction migration on the structure of the crust and upper mantle in this region is therefore necessary for reconstructing the geologic evolution of the continental margin of California and accurately assessing seismic hazards associated with the San Andreas fault system and the Cascadia subduction zone.

In 1993 and 1994 a network of large-aperture seismic profiles was collected to image the crustal and upper-mantle structure beneath northern California and the adjacent continental margin. The data include approximately 650 km of onshore seismic refraction/reflection data, 2000 km of off-shore multichannel seismic (MCS) reflection data, and simultaneous onshore and offshore recording of the MCS airgun source to yield large-aperture data. Scientists from more than 12 institutions were involved in data acquisition.