The Warner Range in northeastern California exposes a section of Tertiary rocks over 3 km thick, offering a unique opportunity to study the long-term history of Cascade arc volcanism in an area otherwise covered by younger volcanic rocks. The oldest locally sourced volcanic rocks in the Warner Range are Oligocene (28–24 Ma) and include a sequence of basalt and basaltic andesite lava flows overlain by hornblende and pyroxene andesite pyroclastic flows and minor lava flows. Both sequences vary in thickness (0–2 km) along strike and are inferred to be the erosional remnants of one or more large, partly overlapping composite volcanoes. No volcanic rocks were erupted in the Warner Range between ca. 24 and 16 Ma, although minor distally sourced silicic tuffs were deposited during this time. Arc volcanism resumed ca. 16 Ma with eruption of basalt and basaltic andesite lavas sourced from eruptive centers 5–10 km south of the relict Oligocene centers. Post–16 Ma arc volcanism continued until ca. 8 Ma, forming numerous eroded but well-preserved shield volcanoes to the south of the Warner Range. Oligocene to Late Miocene volcanic rocks in and around the Warner Range are calc-alkaline basalts to andesites (48%–61% SiO2) that display negative Ti, Nb, and Ta anomalies in trace element spider diagrams, consistent with an arc setting. Middle Miocene lavas in the Warner Range are distinctly different in age, composition, and eruptive style from the nearby Steens Basalt, with which they were previously correlated. Middle to Late Miocene shield volcanoes south of the Warner Range consist of homogeneous basaltic andesites (53%–57% SiO2) that are compositionally similar to Oligocene rocks in the Warner Range. They are distinctly different from younger (Late Miocene to Pliocene) high-Al, low-K olivine tholeiites, which are more mafic (46%–49% SiO2), did not build large edifices, and are thought to be related to backarc extension. The Warner Range is ∼100 km east of the axis of the modern arc in northeastern California, suggesting that the Cascade arc south of modern Mount Shasta migrated west during the Late Miocene and Pliocene, while the arc north of Mount Shasta remained in essentially the same position. We interpret these patterns as evidence for an Eocene to Miocene tear in the subducting slab, with a more steeply dipping plate segment to the north, and an initially more gently dipping segment to the south that gradually steepened from the Middle Miocene to the present.
- Received 14 October 2010.
- Revision received 25 February 2010.
- Accepted 28 February 2010.
- © 2011 Geological Society of America