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The northern Walker Lane refraction experiment: Pn arrivals and the northern Sierra Nevada root
AuthorLouie, John N.
Thelen, Weston A.
Smith, Shane B.
Scott, James B.
Pullammanappallil, Satish K.
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In May 2002, we collected a new crustal refraction profile from Battle Mountain, Nevada across western Nevada, the Reno area, Lake Tahoe, and the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains to Auburn, CA. Mine blasts and earthquakes were recorded by 199 Texan instruments extending across this more than 450-km-long transect. The use of large mine blasts and the ultra-portable Texan recorders kept the field costs of this profile to less than US$10,000. The seismic sources at the eastern end were mining blasts at Barrick's GoldStrike mine. The GoldStrike mine produced several ripple-fired blasts using 8000–44,000 kg of ANFO each, a daily occurrence. First arrivals from the larger GoldStrike blasts are obvious to distances of 300 km in the raw records. First arrivals from a quarry blast west of the survey near Watsonville, CA, located by the Northern California Seismic Network with a magnitude of 2.2, can be picked across the recording array to distances of 600 km. The Watsonville blast provides a western source, nearly reversing the GoldStrike blasts. A small earthquake near Bridgeport, CA. also produced pickable P-wave arrivals across the transect, providing fan-shot data. Arrivals from M5 events in the Mariana and Kuril Islands also appear in the records. This refraction survey observes an unexpectedly deep crustal root under the northern Sierra Nevada range, over 50 km in thickness and possibly centered west of the topographic crest. Pn delays of 4–6 s support this interpretation. At Battle Mountain, Nevada, we observe anomalously thin crust over a limited region perhaps only 150 km wide, with a Moho depth of 19–23 km. Pn crossover distances of less than 80 km support this anomaly, which is surrounded by observations of more normal, 30-km-thick crust. A 10-km-thick and high-velocity lower-crustal “pillow” is an alternative hypothesis, but unlikely due to the lack of volcanics west of Battle Mountain. Large mine and quarry blasts prove very effective crustal refraction sources when recorded with a dense receiver array, even over distances exceeding 600 km. New elastic synthetic seismogram modeling suggests that Pn can be strong as a first arrival, easing the modeling and interpretation of crustal refraction data. Fast eikonal computations of first-arrival time can match pickable Pn arrival times.