Three-dimensional thermal modeling for the Mendocino Triple Junction area

Saskia Goes, Rob Govers, Susan Schwartz, Kevin Furlong

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21 Scopus citations


Complex interaction between the Pacific, North American, and Juan de Fuca plates at the northward migrating Mendocino Triple Junction (MTJ) has had a profound effect on the geological evolution of western North America. This paper presents a three-dimensional thermal model for the area around the MTJ that is based on its kinematic evolution, incorporating the effects of an asthenospheric slab window, changes in relative plate motions and the trenchward migration of the Juan de Fuca-Pacific spreading ridge. The thermal equation, including conductive and advective heat transport, is solved numerically using finite differences. Surface heat flow data and the trend in the maximum depth of seismicity south of the MTJ can be quite well explained by the thermal model. A finite lithospheric thickness above the slab window is required to fit heat flow measurements; however, the lack of data west of the San Andreas Fault prevents discriminating between underthrusting and accretionary mechanisms of lithospheric thickening. A comparison between the thermal and recent seismic velocity models reveals that P-wave anomalies in the uppermost mantle have smaller wavelengths and larger amplitudes than predicted if they were purely thermal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-57
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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