Structural, geophysical, and thermochronological data from the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada and the Basin and Range province at latitude ~39°N suggest ~100 km westward encroachment of Basin and Range extensional deformation since the middle Miocene. Extension, accommodated primarily by cast dipping normal faults that bound west tilted, range-forming fault blocks, varies in magnitude from150% in the Wassuk and Singatse Ranges to the east. Geological and apatite fission track data from exhumed upper crustal sections in the Wassuk and Singatse Ranges point to rapid footwall cooling related to large magnitude extension starting at ~14-15 Ma. Farther to the west, geological and thermochronological data indicate a younger period of extension in the previously unextended Pine Nut Mountains, the Carson Range, and the Tahoe-Truckee depression initiated between 10 Ma and 3 Ma, and incipient post-0.5 Ma faulting to the west of the Tahoe-Truckee area. These data imply the presence of an extensional breakaway zone between the Singatse Range and the Pine Nut Mountains at ~14-15 Ma, forming the boundary between the Sierra Nevada and Basin and Range at that time. In addition, fission track data imply a Miocene preextensional geothermal gradient of 27 ± 5°C km -1 in the central Wassuk Range and 20 ± 5°C km -1 in the Singatse Range, much higher than the estimated early Tertiary gradient of 10 ± 5°C km -1 for the Sierra Nevada batholith. This might point to a significant increase in geothermal gradients coupled with a likely decrease in crustal strength enabling the initiation of extensional faulting. Apatite fission track, geophysical, and geological constraints across the Sierra Nevada-Basin and Range transition zone indicate a two-stage, coupled structural and thermal westward encroachment of the Basin and Range province into the Sierra Nevada since the middle Miocene.
Surpless, B.E., Stockli, D.F., Dumitru, T.A., and Miller, E.L., 2002, Two-phase westward encroachment of basin and range extension into the northern Sierra Nevada. Tectonics, 21(1), 2-1 - 2-10. doi:10.1029/2000TC001257