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[1] We model Pn waveforms from two earthquakes in the southwestern United States (Mammoth Lakes, California, and western Nevada) to determine a velocity model of the crustal and mantle structure beneath the southern Sierra Nevada and Walker Lane. We derive a one‐dimensional velocity model that includes a smooth crust‐mantle transition east of Death Valley and extending south into the eastern Mojave desert. West of Death Valley and toward the Sierra Nevada a low‐velocity mantle (Vp = 7.6 km/s) directly below the crust indicates the lithosphere is absent. At the base of this low‐velocity structure (at 75–100 km depth) the P wave velocity jumps discontinuously to Vp 8.0 km/s. The area of low velocity is bounded by the Garlock Fault to the south and the Sierra Nevada to the west, but we cannot resolve its northern extent. However, on the basis of teleseismic travel times we postulate that the anomaly terminates at about 38°N. The presence of a low‐velocity, upper mantle anomaly in this area agrees with geochemical research on xenoliths from the southern Sierras and recent studies of receiver functions, refraction profiles, tomography, and gravity. However, the velocity discontinuity at 75–100 km is a new discovery and may represent the top of the once present, now unaccounted for and possibly sunken Sierra Nevada lithosphere.

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An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright (2003) American Geophysical Union.