Structural controls on the spatial distribution and geochemical composition of volcanism in a continental rift zone; an example from Owens Valley, eastern California

Friday, 19 December 2014
Peter J Haproff and An Yin, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Bimodal volcanism is common in continental rift zones. Structural controls to the emplacement and compositions of magmas, however, are not well understood. To address this issue, we examine the location, age, and geochemistry of active volcanic centers, and geometry and kinematics of rift-related faults across the active transtensional Owens Valley rift zone. Building on existing studies, we postulate that the spatial distribution and geochemical composition of volcanism are controlled by motion along rift-bounding fault systems. Along-strike variation in fault geometry and characteristics of active volcanism allow us to divide Owens Valley into three segments: southern, northern, and central. The southern segment of Owens Valley is a simple shear, asymmetric rift bounded to the west by the east-dipping Sierra Nevada frontal fault (SNFF). Active vents of Coso volcanic field are distributed along the eastern rift shoulder and characterized by the eruption of bimodal lavas. The SNFF within this segment is low-angle and penetrates through the lithosphere and into the ductile asthenosphere, allowing for mantle-derived magma to migrate across the weakest part of the fault zone beneath the eastern rift shoulder. Magma thermally weakens wall rocks and eventually stalls in the crust where the melt develops a greater felsic component prior to eruption. The northern segment of Owens Valley displays similar structural geometry, as the west-dipping White Mountains fault (WMF) is listric at depth and offsets the crust and mantle lithosphere, allowing for vertical transport of magma and reservoir emplacement within the crust. Bimodal lavas periodically erupted in the Long Valley Caldera region along the western rift shoulder. The central segment of Owens Valley is a pure shear, symmetric graben generated by motion along the SNFF and WMF. The subvertical, right-slip Owens Valley fault (OVF) strikes along the axis of the valley and penetrates through the lithosphere into the asthenosphere. Volcanic centers of Big Pine volcanic field are located along the trace of the OVF and characterized by mafic eruptions. The OVF is interpreted to provide a subvertical conduit for asthenospheric magma to migrate across the LAB and Moho and erupt on the rift surface without significant contamination with felsic crust.