Marine Geophysical Researches

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 25–45 | Cite as

Morphology of the Blanco Transform Fault Zone-NE Pacific: Implications for its tectonic evolution

  • Robert W. Embley
  • Douglas S. Wilson


The right-lateral Blanco Transform Fault Zone (BTFZ) offsets the Gorda and the Juan de Fuca Ridges along a 350 km long complex zone of ridges and right-stepping depressions. The overall geometry of the BTFZ is similar to several other oceanic transform fault zones located along the East Pacific Rise (e.g., Siquieros) and to divergent wrench faults on continents; i.e., long strike-slip master faults offset by extensional basins. These depressions have formed over the past 5 Ma as the result of continual reorientation of the BTFZ in response to changes in plate motion. The central depression (Cascadia Depression) is flanked by symmetrically distributed, inward-facing back-tilted fault blocks. It is probably a short seafloor spreading center that has been operating since about 5 Ma, when a southward propagating rift failed to ‘kill’ the last remnant of a ridge segment. The Gorda Depression on the eastern end of the BTFZ may have initially formed as the result of a similar occurrence involving a northward propagating rift on the Gorda ridge system. Several of the smaller basins (East Blanco, Surveyor and Gorda) morphologically appear to be oceanic analogues of continental pull-apart basins. This would imply diffuse extension rather than the discrete neovolcanic zone associated with a typical seafloor spreading center. The basins along the western half of the BTFZ have probably formed within the last few hundred thousands years, possibly as the result of a minor change in the Juan de Fuca/Pacific relative motion.

Key words

Blanco Transform Fault Zone transform fault zone pull-apart basin propagating rift Juan de Fuca 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert W. Embley
    • 1
  • Douglas S. Wilson
    • 2
  1. 1.Hatfield OSU Marine Science CentreNOAA/MRRDNewportUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of Geological SciencesUniv. of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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