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Tectonics of Central and Eastern California, Late Cretaceous to Modern


Sousa, Francis Joseph (2016) Tectonics of Central and Eastern California, Late Cretaceous to Modern. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9H41PD8.


The Late Cretaceous to Modern tectonic evolution of central and eastern California has been studied for many decades, with published work generally focusing on specific geographic areas and time periods. The resulting literature leaves the reader, whether graduate student, faculty member, or layperson, wondering what a coherently integrated tectonic evolution might look like, or if it would be at all possible to undertake such a task. This question is the common thread weaving together the four studies presented in this work. Each of the individual chapters is targeted at a specific location and time period which I have identified as a critical yet missing link in piecing together a coherent regional tectonic story. In the first chapter, we re-discover a set of major west down normal faults running along the western slope of the southern Sierra, the western Sierra fault system (WSFS). We show that one of these faults was offset by roughly a kilometer in Eocene time, and that this activity directly resulted in the incision of much of the relief present in modern Kings Canyon. The second chapter is a basement landscape and thermochronometric study of the hanging wall of the WSFS. New data from this study area provide a significant westward expansion of basement thermochronometric data from the southern Sierra Nevada batholith. Thermal modeling results of these data provide critical new constraints on the early exhumation of the Sierra Nevada batholith, and in the context of the results from Chapter I, allow us to piece together a coherent chronology of tectonic forcings and landscape evolution for the southern Sierra Nevada. In the third chapter, I present a study of the surface rupture of the 1999 Hector Mine earthquake, a dextral strike slip event on a fault in the Eastern California Shear Zone (ECSZ). New constraints on the active tectonics in ECSZ will help future studies better resolve the enigmatic mismatch between geologic slip rates and geodetically determined regional rates. Chapter IV is a magnetostratigraphic pilot study of the Paleocene Goler Formation. This study provides strong evidence that continued investigation will yield new constraints on the depositional age of the only fossil-bearing Paleocene terrestrial deposit on the west coast of North America. Each of these studies aims to provide important new data at critical missing links in the tectonic evolution of central and eastern California.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:tectonics, geology, california, thermochronology, Cretaceous, earthquakes
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Saleeby, Jason B. (advisor)
  • Farley, Kenneth A. (advisor)
Group:Caltech Seismological Laboratory
Thesis Committee:
  • Avouac, Jean-Philippe (chair)
  • Saleeby, Jason B.
  • Farley, Kenneth A.
  • Stock, Joann M.
  • Kirschvink, Joseph L.
Defense Date:16 May 2016
Non-Caltech Author Email:franksousa (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationGBMF #423.01
National Science FoundationEAR-0408526
Southern California Earthquake Center12188, 13151, 14160
NSF Cooperative AgreementEAR-1033462
USGS Cooperative AgreementG12AC20038
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05252016-090108907
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for ch. 1 for 2014 Hector Mine field research
Sousa, Francis Joseph0000-0003-1623-4023
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9748
Deposited By: Francis Sousa
Deposited On:25 May 2016 23:34
Last Modified:12 Nov 2021 20:21

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