Relative crustal motions along active faults generate earthquakes, and repeated motions build mountain ranges over millions of years. However, the long-term summation of elastic, earthquake-related deformation often cannot produce the deformation recorded within the rock record. Here, we provide an explanation for this discrepancy by showing that increases in strain facilitated by plastic deformation of Earth’s crust, in conjunction with isostatic deflection and erosion, transform relative fault motions that produce individual earthquakes to geologic deformations. We focus our study on the data-rich Santa Cruz Mountains, CA, USA, and compare predicted and observed quantities for rock uplift, apatite (U-Th)/He thermochronology, topographic relief, 10Be-based erosion rates, and interseismic surface velocities. This approach reconciles these disparate records of mountain-building processes spanning spatial scales from millimeters to tens of kilometers, allowing us to explicitly bridge decadal measures of deformation with that produced by millions of years of plate motion.
This repository contains code, data files, and visualization products associated with this work.