Cenozoic extension in the western United States presents a complex interrelation of extension, volcanism, and plate boundary tectonics that defeats simple notions of “active” or “passive” rifting. Forces driving extension can originate at plate boundaries, through basal traction, basal normal forces, or from buoyancy forces internal to the crust and lithospheric mantle. The latter two are most responsible for driving extension where it is observed in the Basin and Range. The complex evolution of the northern Basin and Range probably represents removal or alteration of mantle lithosphere interacting with buoyancy stored in the crust. In contrast, crustal buoyancy forces combined with a divergent plate boundary between about 28 and 16 Ma to drive extension in the southern Basin and Range. The central Basin and Range most likely extended as a result of boundary forces external to itself but arising from buoyancy forces elsewhere in the western United States.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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