Earthquake Report: San Clemente Island

Well, yesterday was the start of a sequence of earthquakes offshore of San Clemente Island, about 100 km west of San Diego, California. The primary tectonic player in southern CA is the Pacific – North America plate boundary fault, the San Andreas (SAF).

    Here are the earthquakes in this sequence:

  • 2019.06.05 10:47:18 (UTC)M 4.3
  • 2019.06.05 14:32:09 (UTC)M 4.3
  • 2019.06.05 14:37:35 (UTC)M 4.3
  • 2019.06.05 16:13:43 (UTC)M 4.3
  • 2019.06.05 22:33:25 (UTC)M 3.3
  • 2019.06.06 01:44:33 (UTC)M 2.4
  • 2019.06.06 02:21:17 (UTC)M 2.3
  • 2019.06.06 11:18:09 (UTC)M 2.8
  • 2019.06.06 11:25:36 (UTC)M 3.5
  • 2019.06.06 17:19:10 (UTC)M 1.6

The region offshore where this ongoing sequence is called the California Continental Borderlands (CCB). There exists an excellent record of how the North America – Pacific plate margin boundary has evolved through time (remember, prior to about 29 million years ago, this plate boundary in southern CA was a subduction zone).
There was an earthquake offshore of Los Angeles last year. Check out my earthquake report and report update.
In places the SAF is a single thoroughgoing fault (e.g. in the southern San Joaquin Valley), in others it splays into multiple strands (in Orange County between the Santa Ana Mtns and Lake Elsinore), and in other places it bends to create regions of uplift (like in Ventura or the Santa Monica Mtns). The active faulting in the CCB is basically a series of right-lateral faults that step and bend to form uplifted islands and terraces, along with pull-apart sedimentary basins.
San Clemente Island is a region of uplifted non-marine Tertiary volcanic rocks (andesite and dacite) with ages ranging from 14.8 – 16.5 million years ago (Yeats, 1968; Merifield et al., 1971; Ward and Valenise, 1996). These rocks are overlain by Tertiary (Miocene) sediments (limestone, siltstone, shale, and diatomite; correlates to the Monterey Formation) and Plio-Pleistocene sediments (sandstones and conglomerates; correlates to the Fernando Formation found onshore; Stadum & Susuki, 1976; Ward and Valenise, 1996).
The bedrock is folded into a northwest trending anticline (rocks are folded upwards with the crest in the center of the island, forming a convex upward fold). Moore (1969) use regional compilations of seismic reflection data to show that this type of tectonic folding is ubiquitous throughout the CCB.
Ward and Velensise (1996) suggest that the San Clemente island formed via uplift during progressive slip on two, southeast striking, southwest dipping, blind thrust faults. These faults initiated movement between 3 and 5 Ma. There are a suite of Pleistocene marine terraces (2.56 Ma and younger) that provide evidence that uplift is continuing. Using fossil age determinations and correlation of marine terrace elevations with global eustatic sea level curves, the island is currently uplifting at rates between 0.2 and .5 mm/year. So, the underlying thrust faults are slipping at about 0.6-1.5 mm/yr (Ward and Velensise, 1996).
Muhs et al. (2014) used numerical ages (uranium-series analysis of corrals and amino acid geochronology of mollusks) to calculate marine terrace uplift rates in the CCB. When compared to uplift rates from different tectonic regimes, the terrace uplift rates in CCB is comparable to regions where strike-slip tectonics are dominant. These authors suggest that uplift like that found at the Big Bend (e.g. Ventura and Santa Monica Mtns) is not influencing terrace uplift rates in the CCB.
Along with this compression, there is a right-lateral (dextral) strike-slip fault on the east side of the island, the San Clemente fault, which has a slip rate of about 1 – 4 mm.yr (Ward and Valensise, 1996). The Southern California Earthquake Center suggests the slip rate is about 1.5 mm/yr for the SCF.
The ongoing sequence of earthquakes near the San Clemente Island are small in magnitude. If these were foreshocks to a larger earthquake, this would be felt across the southland, possibly cause damage on the island (where there is a U.S. Naval base), could possibly trigger submarine landslides or a small tsunami. Strike-slip earthquakes are not always considered a significant source for large tsunami, but there is abundant evidence that they do, though often much smaller than tsunami generated from thrust or subduction zone earthquakes. It is possible, if not probable, that this sequence will fizzle out.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 3.0 in one version.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the lower right corner is a map from Wallace (1990) that shows the plate boundary and major faults overlain upon a topographic/bathymetric map. Check out the patterns made by the uplifted regions and the faulting (e.g. pull-apart basins). I placed a blue star in the general location of this ongoing sequence.
  • In the upper right corner there is a map that shows more detailed fault mapping and bathymetric contours (Chaytor et al., 2008).
  • In the upper left corner, there is a map from Legg et al. (2015) that shows how the strike-slip faults transect the CCB. Select earthquake mechanisms are shown (use legend at the top of the poster to help interpret these symbols) for some historic earthquakes. These authors collected and interpreted a number of seismic reflection profiles, including C-C.’
  • Below the Chaytor et al. (2008) map is seismic reflection profile C-C’ which shows how the basins are filled with sediment, the islands and terraces are also constructed of sedimentary rocks, and there are some steeply dipping faults. This profile is not travel time corrected, so depth is in two-way-travel-time (in seconds), not in depth. The faults probably dip more shallowly than is shown on the figure. The faults in this figure are aligned with the San Clemente fault system labeled on the map. Note that there are some faults that bound the Santa Nicolas Basin.
  • In the lower left corner is a figure that shows how a right-lateral strike-slip fault can create a geometry (e.g. in a step over) where there is extension that forms a pull-apart basin. This is one way to explain the formation of the Santa Cruz, Santa Nicolas, and Catalina basins shown on the maps.
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted.

  • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity plotted.

  • Here is a map that shows detailed bathymetry data for the region (Dartnell et al., 2016, 2017) overlain on GEBCO coarser bathymetry data downloaded from GMRT. The land data are at 10 m resolution from The National Map (NED).
  • I plot USGS Quaternary Fault and Fold Database faults as faint white lines. Earthquakes include the past month for magnitudes M ≥ 0.5 and events since 1919 for M ≥ 4.0.
  • Look at the bathymetry surrounding the island. We can clearly see the SCF to the east of the island. There is evidence for a north-south striking fault to the west of the island. In the area just southeast of the earthquakes, there appears bedrock sticking up out of the continental shelf. This bedrock aligns with a ridge in the slop to the south of the island. This ridge may just be sediment, but it may also be tectonic in origin.

  • This map has the USGS MMI contours. The two M 4.3 temblors were felt across the southland.

  • Here is a larger scale map so that we can look at the bathymetry surrounding San Clemente Island in greater detail. I updated the USGS seismicity for 2019.06.06 at 20:00 Pacific time.

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is the figure showing the evolution of the SAF since its inception about 29 Ma. I include the USGS figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • EVOLUTION OF THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT.
    This series of block diagrams shows how the subduction zone along the west coast of North America transformed into the San Andreas Fault from 30 million years ago to the present. Starting at 30 million years ago, the westward- moving North American Plate began to override the spreading ridge between the Farallon Plate and the Pacific Plate. This action divided the Farallon Plate into two smaller plates, the northern Juan de Fuca Plate (JdFP) and the southern Cocos Plate (CP). By 20 million years ago, two triple junctions began to migrate north and south along the western margin of the West Coast. (Triple junctions are intersections between three tectonic plates; shown as red triangles in the diagrams.) The change in plate configuration as the North American Plate began to encounter the Pacific Plate resulted in the formation of the San Andreas Fault. The northern Mendicino Triple Junction (M) migrated through the San Francisco Bay region roughly 12 to 5 million years ago and is presently located off the coast of northern California, roughly midway between San Francisco (SF) and Seattle (S). The Mendicino Triple Junction represents the intersection of the North American, Pacific, and Juan de Fuca Plates. The southern Rivera Triple Junction (R) is presently located in the Pacific Ocean between Baja California (BC) and Manzanillo, Mexico (MZ). Evidence of the migration of the Mendicino Triple Junction northward through the San Francisco Bay region is preserved as a series of volcanic centers that grow progressively younger toward the north. Volcanic rocks in the Hollister region are roughly 12 million years old whereas the volcanic rocks in the Sonoma-Clear Lake region north of San Francisco Bay range from only few million to as little as 10,000 years old. Both of these volcanic areas and older volcanic rocks in the region are offset by the modern regional fault system. (Image modified after original illustration by Irwin, 1990 and Stoffer, 2006.)

  • Here is a map that shows the tectonic provides in this region (Legg et al. (2015). While the region inherits topography and geologic structures from past tectonic regimes, the dominant tectonic control here is currently the North America – Pacific plate boundary.

  • Map of the California Continental Borderland showing major tectonic features and moderate earthquake locations (M >5.5). The dashed box shows area of this study. The large arrows show relative plate motions for the Pacific-North America transform fault boundary (~N40° ± 2°W; RM2 and PA-1 [Plattner et al., 2007]). BP = Banning Pass, CH = Chino Hills, CP = Cajon Pass, LA = Los Angeles, PS = Palm Springs, V = Ventura, ESC = Santa Cruz Basin, ESCBZ = East Santa Cruz Basin fault zone, SCI = Santa Catalina Island, SCL = San Clemente Island, SMB = Santa Monica Basin, and SNI = San Nicolas Island. Base map from GeoMapApp/Global Multi-Resolution Topography (GMRT) [Ryan et al., 2009].

  • This map (Legg et al., 2007) shows an interpretation of the tectonics in this area. Note the location of the seismic reflection profile 116. San Clemente Island is on the southern edge of this map.

  • Shaded relief map of Santa Catalina Island and vicinity, where several restraining-bend pop-ups and releasing-bend basins exist along major fault zones. Epicentres for two moderate earthquakes (1981 Santa Barbara Island, M 6.0; 1986 Oceanside, M 5.8) and aftershocks bound the Santa Catalina Island restraining bend (locations by Astiz & Shearer 2000; focal mechanism from Corbett 1984). Other restraining-bend pop-ups include the Palos Verdes Hills (PVH) and Lasuen knoll along the Palos Verdes fault zone, and Signal Hill (SH) and possibly the San Joaquin Hills (SJH) along the Newport–Inglewood fault zone. Small pop-ups and pull-apart basins in the vicinity of Crespi knoll are shown in Figure 14. Total relief across the Catalina Fault is almost 2000 m, from Catalina Basin to Mt Orizaba. From 60 to 72 km of right-slip on San Clemente Fault is inferred from offset of Emery Knoll crater rim (Legg et al. 2004b).

  • Here is the USGS seismic reflection profile 116 (Legg et al., 2007). The San Clemente fault zone and the Catalina fault are shown. Check out the pull-apart basin.

  • Seismic-reflection profile USGS-116 across the Catalina basin (see Fig. 12 for profile location). Note the thin sediment cover over an irregular basement surface. A pull-apart basin exists where the San Clemente Fault steps to the NE to eventually merge with the Catalina Fault. The major faults have subvertical dips, typical of strike-slip faults. Convergence across the Catalina Fault has elevated Santa Catalina Island, and uplift occurs on both sides of the PDZ. Seismic data from USGS (J. Childs 2005, pers. comm.) FK migration at 4800 fps velocity was applied to 22-fold USGS stacked data.

  • Here is the figure with more details about the tectonic interpretation of the area (Legg et al., 2015)

  • Map showing bathymetry, Quaternary faults, and recent seismicity in the Outer Borderland. Fault locations are based on the high-resolution bathymetry, available high-resolution seismic reflection profiles, and published fault maps [cf. California Geological Survey (CGS), 2010]. The red symbols show magnitude-scaled (M>4) epicenters for seismicity recorded for the period of 1932 to 2013. Seismicity data and focal mechanisms are derived from the Southern California Seismograph Network catalogs, National Earthquake Information Center [2012–2013], and Legg [1980]. Focal mechanism event numbers correspond to Table S2 in the supporting information. The black rectangle shows location of Figure 10. The light blue lines show tracklines of multichannel seismic profiles—the labeled white profiles are shown in Figures 12 (124) and 13 (108 and 126).

  • Here is the summary figure from Legg et al. (2015). This helps us put these faults systems into context. Seismic reflection profiles from their publication are shown here (profile C-C’ is located in the rectangle labeled Fig 6 and plotted below).

  • Map showing major active tectonic elements of the northern part of the California Continental Borderland. Major active (Quaternary) faults are shown in red (SAF = San Andreas fault, ABF = Agua Blanca fault, SCF = San Clemente fault, and SCCR = Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge, Ferrelo). Major strike-slip offsets are shown by shaded areas with estimated displacement (EK = Emery Knoll crater; Tanner Basin near DB = Dall Bank; and SDT = San Diego Trough, small pull-apart near Catalina). Other symbols show oblique fault character including transpressional restraining bends (CAT = Santa Catalina Island, CB = Cortes Bank, and TB = Tanner Bank), uplifts (SRI = Santa Rosa Island, SCz = Santa Cruz Island, SNI = San Nicolas Island, CB = Cortes Bank, TB = Tanner Bank, and SBM = San Bernardino Mountains), and transtensional pull-apart basins (SD = San Diego, ENS = Ensenada, SCB = San Clemente Basin, and SIB = San Isidro Basin). The large arrows show Pacific-North America relative plate motions with the blue dashed line (PAC-NAM) along a small circle for the RM2 [Minster and Jordan, 1978] plate motions model through San Clemente Island (SCL). Boundary between the Inner and Outer Borderland follows the East Santa Cruz Basin fault zone (dotted line; modified from Schindler [2010] and De Hoogh [2012]). Holocene volcanoes exist along the coast (SQ= San Quintín) and within the Gulf of California Rift (CP = Cerro Prieto and Obsidian Buttes, Salton Trough). Dates show year of earthquakes with mapped focal mechanisms (see Table S2 in the supporting information). SB = Santa Barbara, LA = Los Angeles, and PS = Palm Springs.

  • Here is the seismic reflection profile C-C’ shown on the poster (Legg et al., 2015).

  • High-resolution 24-channel 4 kJ sparker seismic profiles along the Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge (C. Goldfinger, personal communications, 2001). The profiles are arranged from north to south along the southern part of the ridge (see Figure 6a for profile locations). Profile OSU-128 located near the bifurcation of the Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge east of Santa Barbara Island. The colored horizons are correlated to stratigraphy mapped by Sorlien et al. [2013] (see Figure 6 for profile location). The East San Clemente fault zone merges with the Catalina Ridge fault zone within the eastern valley (Figure 5a). Reverse slip is evident on several steep faults that bound blocks of sedimentary rocks that were squeezed up in this transpressional fault system.

  • Here is a map from Maier et al. (2018) that shows how the faults are configured, as well as the sedimentary distribution systems (the focus of their paper). I grew up on the [concrete] banks of the San Gabriel River and this is where the submarine canyon and channels send their sediment loads.

  • Color-contoured slope-shaded multibeam bathymetry gridded at 10 meters. A) The Catalina Basin and the San Gabriel Canyon–Channel depositional system. Dashed line in the Catalina Basin indicates approximate extent of channels resolved on the seafloor.

  • Below are seismic reflection profiles plotted on the above map (Maier et al., 2018)

  • Northwest channels and lobes. See Figure 1A for profile locations. Gray lines represent profile intersections. A) Chirp profile across the northwestern Catalina Basin shows the stacking of lobes that do not reach the Kimki Fault (KF). B) An obliquely oriented chirp profile shows that the lobe deposits originate from the northwest channels, end before reaching the San Clemente Fault (SCF), and do not overlap in extent with lobe b.

  • This shows the timeline of what has controlled the tectonics in this region (Legg et al., 2015).

  • Chronology of major Cenozoic events in the Southern California region (after Wright [1991] and Legg and Kamerling [2012]). Intensity of tectonic deformation is represented by the curve. Local (Los Angeles Basin) biostratigraphic zonation is shown. The slanted labels for Neogene stages represent the time-transgressive nature of these boundaries.

Pleistocene Marine Terraces

    • Schematic cartoon illustrating the cutting and abandonment of marine terraces in an actively uplifting landscape in relation to sea level fluctuation. (a) Marine terrace cut during a relative sea level high stand. (b) Sea level drops and the marine terrace is uplifted. (c) During the next relative sea level high stand a new marine terrace is cut into the landscape below the older terrace. Modified after Nalin et al., (2007).

    • Here is a figure that shows the geomorphic features of a marine terrace (Wikipedia).

    • Here is a beautiful low angle oblique photo of the marine terraces on San Clemente Island (Yatsko, 2000). These authors studied the archaeological deposits on this island.

    • Emergent Pleistocene marine terraces on the west side of the island between Norton and Box canyons.

    • Here are some views of the terraces on San Clemente Island as photographed by Daniel Muhs (USGS).



    • Here is a map I prepared using the 2016 USGS Topobathy data (LiDAR and historic bathymetry mosaic).
    • I present these data as a shaded relief (hillshade) beneath an elevation raster with color representing height or depth. I also use a slopeshade raster to help highlight the changes in slope.
    • The 100 meter topographic contours are labeled. The inset shows the location of the main map in relation to the CCB with a pink polygon.

    • UPDATE: 2019.06.07
    • I prepared a couple maps that show the entire island. These are below, with 2 different color ramps.



    • Below is a fantastic summary showing the uplift rates for Pleistocene marine terraces along the North America – Pacific plate boundary system(Legg et al., 2015). Note the high uplift rates at the Big Bend and the Mendocino triple junction (another plate where there is a major change in SAF tectonics).

    • Map showing the plate tectonic setting of western North America (simplified from Drummond (1981) and Simkin et al. (2006)). SAF, San Andreas Fault; MTJ, Mendocino Triple Junction; CSZ, Cascadia subduction zone. Also shown are marine terrace localities with reliably dated ~120 ka, ~80 ka, or ~49 ka corals, or amino acid ratios in mollusks that permit correlation to ~120 ka, ~80 ka, or ~49 ka terrace localities, and elevation data that allow calculations of late Quaternary uplift rates. Paleo-sea levels, relative to present, used for uplift rate calculations are þ6 m (~120 ka), 11 m (~80 ka), and 62 m (~49 ka), derived from data in Muhs et al. (2012). Abbreviations and sources of data, south to north: CP, Cabo Pulmo (Muhs et al., 2002a); LP, La Paz (Sirkin et al., 1990); BH, Bahía Magdalena (Omura et al., 1979); IC, Isla Coronados and PC, Punta Chivato (Johnson et al., 2007; see also Table 2); MU, Mulege (Ashby et al., 1987); BT, Bahía de Tortugas (Emerson et al., 1981); PB, Punta Banda (Rockwell et al., 1989; Muhs et al., 2002a); PL, Point Loma (Kern, 1977; Muhs et al., 2002a); SCI, San Clemente Island (Muhs et al., 2002a, 2014); NB, Newport Bay (Grant et al., 1999); SNI, San Nicolas Island (Muhs et al., 2012); PV, Palos Verdes Hills (Muhs et al., 2006); NCI, Northern Channel Islands (this study); V, Ventura (Lajoie et al., 1979; Kennedy et al., 1982;Wehmiller, 1982); IV, Isla Vista (Gurrola et al., 2014; see also Table 2); SB, Shell Beach (Stein et al., 1991; Hanson et al., 1994); PSL, Point San Luis (Hanson et al., 1994; Muhs et al., 1994); C, Cayucos (Stein et al., 1991; Muhs et al., 2002a); AN, A~no Nuevo (Muhs et al., 2006); PA, Point Arena (Muhs et al., 2006); PD, Point Delgada (McLaughlin et al., 1983a, 1983b; Merritts and Bull, 1989); CC, Crescent City (Kennedy et al., 1982; Polenz and Kelsey, 1999); CB, Cape Blanco (Kelsey, 1990; Muhs et al., 1990); B, Bandon (McInelly and Kelsey, 1990; Muhs et al., 1990, 2006); YB, Yaquina Bay (Kennedy et al., 1982; Kelsey et al., 1996).

Geologic Fundamentals

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechanisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).

  • Here is another way to look at these beach balls.
  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This is an image from the USGS that shows how, when an oceanic plate moves over a hotspot, the volcanoes formed over the hotspot form a series of volcanoes that increase in age in the direction of plate motion. The presumption is that the hotspot is stable and stays in one location. Torsvik et al. (2017) use various methods to evaluate why this is a false presumption for the Hawaii Hotspot.

  • A cutaway view along the Hawaiian island chain showing the inferred mantle plume that has fed the Hawaiian hot spot on the overriding Pacific Plate. The geologic ages of the oldest volcano on each island (Ma = millions of years ago) are progressively older to the northwest, consistent with the hot spot model for the origin of the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain. (Modified from image of Joel E. Robinson, USGS, in “This Dynamic Planet” map of Simkin and others, 2006.)

  • Here is a map from Torsvik et al. (2017) that shows the age of volcanic rocks at different locations along the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount Chain.

  • Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. White dots are the locations of radiometrically dated seamounts, atolls and islands, based on compilations of Doubrovine et al. and O’Connor et al. Features encircled with larger white circles are discussed in the text and Fig. 2. Marine gravity anomaly map is from Sandwell and Smith.

  • Here is a great tweet that discusses the different parts of a seismogram and how the internal structures of the Earth help control seismic waves as they propagate in the Earth.

    Social Media

    References:

  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Meiner, M.A., Huftile, G.J., Romsost, C.G., Legg, M.R., 2008. Measuring vertical tectonic motion at the intersection of the Santa Cruz–Catalina Ridge and Northern Channel Islands platform, California Continental Borderland, using submerged paleoshorelines in GSA Bulletin, v. 120, no. 7/8, p. 1053-1071, https://dx.doi.org/10.1130/B26316.1
  • Dartnell, P., Driscoll, N.W., Brothers, D., Conrad, J.E., Kluesner, J., Kent, G., and Andrews, B., 2015, Colored shaded-relief bathymetry, acoustic backscatter, and selected perspective views of the inner continental borderland, Southern California, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3324, 3 sheets, https://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sim3324.
  • Dartnell, P., Roland, E.C., Raineault, N.A., Castillo, C.M., Conrad, J.E., Kane, R.R., Brothers, D.S., Kluesner, J.W., Walton, M.A.L., 2017, Multibeam bathymetry and acoustic-backscatter data collected in 2016 in Catalina Basin, southern California and merged multibeam bathymetry datasets of the northern portion of the Southern California Continental Borderland: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7DV1H3W.
  • Du, X., Hendy, I., Schimmelmann, 2018. A 9000-year flood history for Southern California: A revised stratigraphy of varved sediments in Santa Barbara Basin in Marine Geology, v. 397, p. 29-42, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2017.11.014
  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Fuis, G.S., Ryberg, T., Godfrey, N.J., Okaya, D.A., Murphy, J.M., 2001. Crustal structure and tectonics from the Los Angeles basin to the Mojave Desert, southern California in Geology, v. 29, no. 1, p. 15-18
  • Hayes, G., 2018, Slab2 – A Comprehensive Subduction Zone Geometry Model: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7PV6JNV.
  • Kreemer, C., G. Blewitt, E.C. Klein, 2014. A geodetic plate motion and Global Strain Rate Model in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 15, p. 3849-3889, https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GC005407.
  • Legg., <.R., Goldfinger, C., Kamerling, M.J., Chaytor, J.D., and Einstein, D.E., 2007. Morphology, structure and evolution of California Continental Borderland restraining bends in W. D. & Mann, P. (Eds) Tectonics of Strike-Slip Restraining And Releasing Bends. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, v. 290, p. 143–168
  • Legg, M. R., M. D. Kohler, N. Shintaku, and D. S. Weeraratne, 2015. Highresolution mapping of two large-scale transpressional fault zones in the California Continental Borderland: Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge and Ferrelo faults, J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf., 120, 915–942, doi:10.1002/2014JF003322.
  • Merifield, P.M., Lamar, D.L., and Stout, M.L., 1971. Geology of Central San Clemente Island, California in GSA Bulletin, v. 82, p. 1989-1994
  • Maier, K.L., Roland, E.C., Walton., A.L., Conrad,m J.E., Brothers, D.S., Bartnell, P., and Kleusner, J.W., 2018. The Tectonically Controlled San Gabriel Channel–Lobe Transition Zone, Catalina Basin, Southern California Borderland in Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 88, p. 942-959, http://dx.doi.org/10.2110/jsr.2018.50
  • Meyer, B., Saltus, R., Chulliat, a., 2017. EMAG2: Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid (2-arc-minute resolution) Version 3. National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA. Model. https://doi.org/10.7289/V5H70CVX
  • Muhs, Daniel R.; Simmons, Kathleen R.; Schumann, R. Randall; Groves, Lindsey T.; DeVogel, Stephen B.; Minor, Scott A.; and Laurel, DeAnna, “Coastal tectonics on the eastern margin of the Pacific Rim: late Quaternary sea-level history and uplift rates, Channel Islands National Park, California, USA” (2014). USGS Staff — Published Research. 932.
    http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/usgsstaffpub/932
  • Müller, R.D., Sdrolias, M., Gaina, C. and Roest, W.R., 2008, Age spreading rates and spreading asymmetry of the world’s ocean crust in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, Q04006, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GC001743
  • Nalin, R., Massari, F., and Zecchin, M., 2007, Superimposed Cycles of Composite Marine Terraces: The Example of Cutro Terrace (Calabria, Southern Italy): Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 77, no. 4, p. 340-354.
  • Pinter, N., Lueddecke, S.B., Keller, E.A., Simmons, K.R., 1998. Late Quaternary slip on the Santa Cruz Island fault, California in GSA Bulletin, v. 110, no. 6, p. 711-722
  • Pinter, N., Johns, B., Little, B., Vestal, W.D., 2001. Fault-Related Folding in California’s Northern Channel Islands Documented by Rapid-Static GPS Positioning in GSA Today, May, 2001
  • Schindler, C.S., 2010. 3D Fault Geometry and Basin Evolution in the Northern Continental Borderland Offshore Southern California Catherine Sarah Schindler, B.S. A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Physics and Geology California State University Bakersfield In Partial Fulfillment for the Degree of Masters of Science in Geology
  • Shaw, J.H., Suppe, J., 1994. Active faulting and growth folding in the eastern Santa Barbara Channel, California in GSA Bulletin, v. 106, p. 607-626
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp1515].
  • Yeats, R. S., 1968. Southern California structure, sea-floor spreading, and history of the Pacific Basin in Geol. Soc. America Bull., v. 79, p. 1693-1702

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18 April 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Today is the anniversary of the 18 April 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. There are few direct observations (e.g. from seismometers or other instruments) from this earthquake, so our knowledge of how strong the ground shook during the earthquake are limited to indirect measurements.
Below I present a poster that shows a computer simulation that provides an estimate of the intensity of the ground shaking that may happen if the San Andreas fault slipped in a similar way that it did in 1906.
The USGS prepares these ShakeMap scenario maps so that we can have an estimate of the ground shaking from hypothetical earthquakes. I present a poster below that uses data from one of these scenarios. This is a scenario that is similar to what we think happened in 1906, but it is only a model.
There is lots about the 1906 Earthquake that I did not include, but this leaves me room for improvement for the years into the future, when we see this anniversary come again.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1900-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 5.5.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.

    Magnetic Anomalies

  • In the map below, I include a transparent overlay of the magnetic anomaly data from EMAG2 (Meyer et al., 2017). As oceanic crust is formed, it inherits the magnetic field at the time. At different points through time, the magnetic polarity (north vs. south) flips, the North Pole becomes the South Pole. These changes in polarity can be seen when measuring the magnetic field above oceanic plates. This is one of the fundamental evidences for plate spreading at oceanic spreading ridges (like the Gorda rise).
  • Regions with magnetic fields aligned like today’s magnetic polarity are colored red in the EMAG2 data, while reversed polarity regions are colored blue. Regions of intermediate magnetic field are colored light purple.
  • We can see the roughly north-south trends of these red and blue stripes. These lines are parallel to the ocean spreading ridges from where they were formed.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • On the right is a map from Wallace (1990) that shows the main faults that are part of the Pacific – North America plate boundary. The San Andreas fault is the locus of a majority of this relative plate motion.
  • In the upper right, to the left of the Wallace map, is a map of the entire state of California. This map shows the shaking potential for different regions based on an estimate of earthquake probability. Pink areas are more likely to experience stronger ground shaking, more frequently, than areas colored green.
  • In the lower right, to the left of the Wallace map, is a photo showing a fence that was offset during the 1906 earthquake. The relative distance between these fences is about 2.6 meters (Lawson, 1908; Aargard and Bowza, 2008).
  • In the upper left corner is a map showing an estimate of the ground motions produced by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, based on Song et al. (2008) source model (Aargard et al., 2008).
  • In the lower left corner is a figure that shows the historic earthquakes for hte San Francisco Bay region (Aagaard et al., 2016). Note that they find there to be a 72% chance of an earthquake with manitude 6.7 or greater between 2014 and 2043.
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted.

  • Here is the photo of the offset fence (Aargard and Bowza, 2008).

  • Fence half a mile northwest of Woodville (east of Point Reyes), offset by approximately 2.6 m of right-lateral strike-slip motion on the San Andreas fault in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library, Gilbert, G. K. 2845).

  • Here is the USGS ShakeMap (Aargard et al., 2008)

  • ShakeMap for the 1906 San Francisco earthquake based on the Boatwright and Bundock (2005) intensities (processed 18 October 2005). Open circles identify the intensity sites used to construct the ShakeMap.

  • In the map above, we can see that the ground shaking was quite high in Humboldt County, CA. Below is a photo from Dengler et al. (2008) that shows headscarps to some lateral slides that failed as a result of the 1906 earthquake. This is the tupe of failure that extended across a much larger landscape for the 28 September 2018 Dongalla / Palu earthquake and tsunami.

  • Spread failures on the banks of the Eel River near Port Kenyon in 1906. Photo E. Garrett, courtesy of Peter Palmquist.

  • Here is a map that shows the estimate for the location of the epicenter for the mainshock of the 1906 earthquake. See Lomax (2008) for more on this.

  • I place a map shows the configuration of faults in central (San Francisco) and northern (Point Delgada – Punta Gorda) CA (Wallace, 1990). Here is the caption for this map, that is on the lower left corner of my map. Below the citation is this map presented on its own.

  • Geologic sketch map of the northern Coast Ranges, central California, showing faults with Quaternary activity and basin deposits in northern section of the San Andreas fault system. Fault patterns are generalized, and only major faults are shown. Several Quaternary basins are fault bounded and aligned parallel to strike-slip faults, a relation most apparent along the Hayward-Rodgers Creek-Maacama fault trend.

  • Here is the figure showing the evolution of the SAF since its inception about 29 Ma. I include the USGS figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • EVOLUTION OF THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT.
    This series of block diagrams shows how the subduction zone along the west coast of North America transformed into the San Andreas Fault from 30 million years ago to the present. Starting at 30 million years ago, the westward- moving North American Plate began to override the spreading ridge between the Farallon Plate and the Pacific Plate. This action divided the Farallon Plate into two smaller plates, the northern Juan de Fuca Plate (JdFP) and the southern Cocos Plate (CP). By 20 million years ago, two triple junctions began to migrate north and south along the western margin of the West Coast. (Triple junctions are intersections between three tectonic plates; shown as red triangles in the diagrams.) The change in plate configuration as the North American Plate began to encounter the Pacific Plate resulted in the formation of the San Andreas Fault. The northern Mendicino Triple Junction (M) migrated through the San Francisco Bay region roughly 12 to 5 million years ago and is presently located off the coast of northern California, roughly midway between San Francisco (SF) and Seattle (S). The Mendicino Triple Junction represents the intersection of the North American, Pacific, and Juan de Fuca Plates. The southern Rivera Triple Junction (R) is presently located in the Pacific Ocean between Baja California (BC) and Manzanillo, Mexico (MZ). Evidence of the migration of the Mendicino Triple Junction northward through the San Francisco Bay region is preserved as a series of volcanic centers that grow progressively younger toward the north. Volcanic rocks in the Hollister region are roughly 12 million years old whereas the volcanic rocks in the Sonoma-Clear Lake region north of San Francisco Bay range from only few million to as little as 10,000 years old. Both of these volcanic areas and older volcanic rocks in the region are offset by the modern regional fault system. (Image modified after original illustration by Irwin, 1990 and Stoffer, 2006.)

Tectonic History of Western North America and Southern California

  • Here is an animation from Tanya Atwater that shows how the Pacific-North America plate margin evolved over the past 40 million years (Ma).

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is the shaking potential map for California.

  • Here is the earthquake timeline (Aagaard et al., 2016).

  • This map shows the relative contribution that each fault has for the chance of earthquakes in the region. For example, this shows that the Hayward fault is the fault with the highest chance of rupture (Aagaard et al., 2016).

Geologic Fundamentals

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechanisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).

  • Here is another way to look at these beach balls.
  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This is an image from the USGS that shows how, when an oceanic plate moves over a hotspot, the volcanoes formed over the hotspot form a series of volcanoes that increase in age in the direction of plate motion. The presumption is that the hotspot is stable and stays in one location. Torsvik et al. (2017) use various methods to evaluate why this is a false presumption for the Hawaii Hotspot.

  • A cutaway view along the Hawaiian island chain showing the inferred mantle plume that has fed the Hawaiian hot spot on the overriding Pacific Plate. The geologic ages of the oldest volcano on each island (Ma = millions of years ago) are progressively older to the northwest, consistent with the hot spot model for the origin of the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain. (Modified from image of Joel E. Robinson, USGS, in “This Dynamic Planet” map of Simkin and others, 2006.)

  • Here is a map from Torsvik et al. (2017) that shows the age of volcanic rocks at different locations along the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount Chain.

  • Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. White dots are the locations of radiometrically dated seamounts, atolls and islands, based on compilations of Doubrovine et al. and O’Connor et al. Features encircled with larger white circles are discussed in the text and Fig. 2. Marine gravity anomaly map is from Sandwell and Smith.

  • Here is a great tweet that discusses the different parts of a seismogram and how the internal structures of the Earth help control seismic waves as they propagate in the Earth.

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Earthquake Report: Channel Islands Update #1

Well well.
There was lots of interest in this M 5.3 earthquake offshore of Ventura/Los Angeles, justifiably so. Southern California is earthquake country.
Here is an update. There was lots of information that I was trying to incorporate and I needed an additional report to cover some of this material. That being said, there is still some mystery about this earthquake. My favored interpretation is that this EQ was a left-lateral strike-slip earthquake. There is still room to interpret this as a right-lateral strike-slip (llss) earthquake however.
Below I have prepared some figures that provide additional information that helps us learn about the faulting and basin development in the CA Borderlands here. There is lots of work that has been done here and this is far from a comprehensive analysis.
As I mentioned before (here is my initial Earthquake Report for this EQ), due to the big bend in the San Andreas fault (SAF) in southern CA, there is evidence for compression in the form of thrust faults and uplifted mountains (e.g. Sierra Madre fault and the San Gabriel Mtns). One of these thrust faults (which may also have some strike-slip motion) is the Hollywood fault (recently highlighted by the recent work by the CA Geological Survey).
Also part of the development of the SAF involved the clockwise rotation of a crustal block where the Transverse Ranges are (the mtns to the north of Ventura/Santa Barbara). Along the southern boundary of the Transverse Ranges formed left-lateral strike slip faults. The Santa Cruz Island fault just happens to be a left-lateral strike-slip fault.
The CA Borderlands is a complex region of faulting, inheriting structures from the Tertiary, overprinted by modern tectonics and everything in between. The Hollywood fault trends towards (and turns into?) the Malibu Coast fault, which may turn into the Santa Cruz Island fault (SCIF), a vertical left-lateral strike-slip fault (but may have some vertical motion on it, based upon offsets in vertical uplift rates from marine terrace profiles).
Schindler used seismic reflection profiles in the Santa Cruz Basin area to interpret the tectonic history here. I placed the faults interpreted by them as orange lines in the interpretive poster (labeled as the Ferrelo fault and the East Santa Cruz (ECS) Basin fault system). The ESCBFS is a thrust fault system, with possible oblique motion (strike-slip). My initial interpretation was that this M 5.3 was a llss earthquake associated with this fault. There are some interesting problems that arise considering this fault. To the south, the fault is oriented similar to the San Clemente fault (which may have had a M 5.5 right-lateral strike-slip (rlss) earthquake on 1981.09.04). Due to this, the simple interpretation is that the ESCBFS is right lateral oblique at the southern part of the Santa Cruz Basin. However, along the northern boundary of this basin, the ESCBFS rotates to an east-west strike (orientation). The simple interpretation would be that this part of the fault system would be llss, similar to the SCIF. So, clearly, things are not so simple here. See the Chaytor et al. (2008) figure below.
That being said, if this M 5.3 earthquake was on an east-west fault, it would be llss. There is no evidence for a north-south oriented fault on the western boundary of the Santa Cruz Basin (see Schindler (2007) seismic profile below), supporting the left-lateral interpretation.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 4.5.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange) for the M 5.3 earthquake, in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes (including the 1971 Sylmar and 1994 Northridge earthquakes, as evidence for the compression in the region).

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.
  • I include some inset figures.

  • In the upper left corner is a cross section from Shaw and Suppe (1994). This cross section location is shown on the interpretive poster as a blue line labeled X-Y. This cross section (from interpretations of offshore seismic reflection profiles) shows the major player here is a thrust fault, the Channel Islands Thrust. Note the SCIF is also shown to rip right through Santa Cruz Island.
  • In the upper right corner is a map that shows the area of this fault ramp of the Channel Islands Thrust (Shaw and Suppe, 1994). Note that this fault ramp area is also shown on the interpretive poster, outlined in light orange.
  • In the center left is a figure from Fuis et al. (2001) that shows a block diagram revealing how the north-south convergence (from the bend in the San Andreas) is accommodated by thrust/reverse faults. The Sierra Madre fault is also labeled on the interpretive poster. A recent earthquake in La Habra is an example of this north-south compression. Here are my report and report update for this M 5.1 La Habra earthquake.
  • In the lower left corner is a seismic reflection profile from Schindler (2007), from her Master’s Thesis. The profile A-A’ is shown on the map as a green line labeled A-A’. Note that there is no faulting on the western boundary of the Santa Cruz Basin. When I first looked at this section, I thought that the ESCBFS were either normal (extensional) or strike-slip faults. After reading her thesis, I learned that these faults did have normal offset (in the Miocene Epoch, part of the Tertiary Period), but have been reactivated as thrust faults in post-Miocene time. The San Clemente fault (labeled on the interpretive poster) turns into the Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge fault (labeled on this cross section).
  • In the lower right corner is a figure that shows how these faults interact in a complicated manner (Sorlien et al., 2006). This figure was prepared after they interpreted seismic reflection profile data. The upper panel is a low-angle oblique view of the faults in 3-D view. The lower two panels are the cross sections B-B’ and E-E’ (also shown on the interpretive poster as orange lines). These cross sections show how the Malibu Coast fault is more deeply dipping (more close to vertical) compared to the Santa Monica-Dume fault (a shallow dipping thrust fault). Both of these faults appear to join in some way near the coast, where they turn into the Hollywood fault. There are probably some inaccuracies in how I am interpreting how these faults interact beyond the limit of the figures I present here.


  • Here is the same map including the magnetic anomaly data (the red and blue shades).


USGS Earthquake Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is a map that shows where the seismic profile was acquired (Shaw and SUppe, 1994).

  • Epicenters from an earthquake swarm in 1984 (Henyey and Teng, 1985) define the active axial surface (A) of the Offshore Oak Ridge trend. Single-event (C and D) and composite (E and F) focal mechanism solutions from the 1984 seismicity have gentle north dipping (C, D, and E) and horizontal (F) nodal planes (Henyey and Teng, 1985) consistent with folding through the active axial surfaces by bedding parallel slip (see Figure 10B). Cross section traces: X-X’ (Fig. 7); X-Y (Fig. 11). SCIF = Santa Cruz Island fault.

  • Here is the cross section. The upper panel shows the modern configuration and the lower panel shows their interpretation during the Tertiary (Shaw and Suppe, 1994).

  • A balanced geologic cross section across the eastern Santa Barbara Channel and Santa Cruz Island combines subsurface seismic reflection and well-log data (the section trace is in Figs. 1 and 10A). The Channel Islands thrust ramps beneath the Offshore Oak Ridge trend and approaches the surface south of Santa Cruz Island. The kink-band width (A-A’) of the Offshore Oak Ridge trend represents dip slip on the underlying Channel Islands thrust. The shallow fold and fault geometry along the Offshore Oak Ridge and Blue Bottle trends is depicted in Figure 7. Strike-slip motion out of the section plane may occur on the Santa Cruz Island fault; however, moderate displacements on this fault should not significantly effect our area balance and restoration, because the strike-slip fault trace is perpendicular to the section plane (Fig. 10A). SCIF = Santa Cruz Island fault. Horizontal equals vertical scale.

  • For background, here is a timeline for the tectonics along the Pacific-North America plate boundary (Schindler, 2007). The Transverse Ranges block is shown as a green bleb labeled WTR. Note how this block is rotating in a clockwise fasion, and see that there are strike-slip faults that form along the block edge to accommodate this rotation.

  • A simple tectonic model of the evolution of the Pacific-North American plate boundary that includes the Inner and Outer Borderland (IB, OB) and rotation of the western Transverse Ranges (WTR) province (from Nicholson et al, 1994). The model assumes a constant rate and direction of Pacific plate motion and constant rate of western Transverse Ranges rotation. As each partially subducted microplate is captured by the Pacific plate (Monterey, ~19 Ma; Arguello, ~17.5 Ma; Guadalupe and Magdalena, ~12 Ma), this results in a transfer of part of the over-riding North American upper plate to the Pacific plate. The fine gray lines provide a reference grid fixed to North America. ArP-Arguello plate; GP-Guadalupe plate; MtP-Monterey plate; SG-San Gabriel block; JdFP-Juan de Fuca plate; SLB-San Lucia Bank; SMB-Santa Maria basin; SB-southern Borderland;T-AFTosco- Arbreojos fault; MP-Magdalena plate. Red areas are regions of transtension; Purple areas are captured or soon to be captured microplates.

  • Here is the seismic reflection profile from Schindler (2010).

  • Regional seismic line WC82-108 showing the ~50 km wide Santa Rosa Ridge anticlinorium. Parallel bedding of pre-Pliocene strata indicates that this anticlinal structure formed post Miocene. The Cretaceous-Paleogene sedimentary rocks are eroded by the early Miocene unconformity (green) and truncate against basement (black arrows). Mapped reference horizons and faults are shown in color and in black, respectively.

  • This is a fantastic low-angle oblique view of the topography and bathymetry of this region (and the Santa Cruz Basin) from Schindler (2010). The figure caption is embedded in the figure.

  • This is the figure from Schindler (2010) that shows the geometry of the ESCBFS and Ferrlo faults. Red shows the upper part of the faults. These faults dip to the north, northeast, and east.

  • A map view of 3D fault surfaces surrounding Santa Cruz basin in the northern Borderland. Depths down-dip along fault surfaces are shown as changing colors at even kilometer levels. The ESCB fault system is observed to be a gently east- to northeast-dipping, right stepping, en echelon reactivated reverse or oblique-reverse fault that bends to become more northerly dipping as it approaches Santa Cruz Island.

  • There has been lots of work here. Jason Chaytor (now at USGS in Woods Hole) worked on submerged marine terraces in this region. These marine terraces were formed when sea level was lower and are a result of erosion from ocean waves at that time. Dr. Chaytor used radiometric ages and sea level curve data to evaluate the tectonic uplift in the region. Here is a map that shows Jason’s interpretation of the seismic profiles for this region (same seismic data used by Schindler).

  • Preliminary map of geologic structures currently mapped using multichannel sparker, and recently released WesternGeco multichannel seismic-reflection profiles (modified from Chaytor, 2006). SCIF—Santa Cruz Island fault.

Geologic Fundamentals

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).

  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

Social Media

    References:

  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Meiner, M.A., Huftile, G.J., Romsost, C.G., Legg, M.R., 2008. Measuring vertical tectonic motion at the intersection of the Santa Cruz–Catalina Ridge and Northern Channel Islands platform, California Continental Borderland, using submerged paleoshorelines in GSA Bulletin, v. 120, no. 7/8, p. 1053-1071, doi: 10.1130/B26316.1
  • Du, X., Hendy, I., Schimmelmann, 2018. A 9000-year flood history for Southern California: A revised stratigraphy of varved sediments in Santa Barbara Basin in Marine Geology, v. 397, p. 29-42, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2017.11.014
  • Fuis, G.S., Ryberg, T., Godfrey, N.J., Okaya, D.A., Murphy, J.M., 2001. Crustal structure and tectonics from the Los Angeles basin to the Mojave Desert, southern California in Geology, v. 29, no. 1, p. 15-18
  • Legg, M. R., M. D. Kohler, N. Shintaku, and D. S. Weeraratne, 2015. Highresolution mapping of two large-scale transpressional fault zones in the California Continental Borderland: Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge and Ferrelo faults, J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf., 120, 915–942, doi:10.1002/2014JF003322.
  • Pinter, N., Lueddecke, S.B., Keller, E.A., Simmons, K.R., 1998. Late Quaternary slip on the Santa Cruz Island fault, California in GSA Bulletin, v. 110, no. 6, p. 711-722
  • Pinter, N., Johns, B., Little, B., Vestal, W.D., 2001. Fault-Related Folding in California’s Northern Channel Islands Documented by Rapid-Static GPS Positioning in GSA Today, May, 2001
  • Schindler, C.S., 2010. 3D Fault Geometry and Basin Evolution in the Northern Continental Borderland Offshore Southern California Catherine Sarah Schindler, B.S. A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Physics and Geology California State University Bakersfield In Partial Fulfillment for the Degree of Masters of Science in Geology
  • Shaw, J.H., Suppe, J., 1994. Active faulting and growth folding in the eastern Santa Barbara Channel, California in GSA Bulletin, v. 106, p. 607-626
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp1515].

Earthquake Report: Channel Islands

I was finally getting around to writing a report for the deep Bolivia earthquake (Bolivia report here), when a M 5.3 earthquake struck offshore of the channel islands (south of Santa Cruz Island, west of Los Angeles). As is typical when an earthquake hits a populated region in the USA, the USGS websites stopped working (for the earthquakes in South America I was researching). After about half an hour or so, the websites started working again (the M 5.3 earthquake website never had a problem).
The Los Angeles region is dominated by the tectonics associated with the North America – Pacific transform plate boundary system of the San Andreas fault (SAF). The SAF accommodates the majority of plate motion between these two plates. There are sister faults where some of the plate boundary motion also goes. This plate boundary extends from the Pacific Ocean eastwards to Utah (the Wasatch fault system).
The SAF is considered a “mature” strike-slip fault because it is straight along most of the system. We think that strike-slip faults start out as smaller faults that develop as tectonic strain enters a region that is different from prior strain. As time passes, these smaller faults join each other, to align with the great circle aligned to the euler pole (the axis of rotation for plates).
The SAF does bend in some places, most notably in southern CA. This bend creates complexities in the fault, but also results in north-south compression (and thrust faults) forming the Transverse Ranges north of the LA Basin. Recent work by the California Geological Survey has been focusing on these thrust faults as they strike (trend) through Hollywood. These thrust faults are oriented east-west.
There are also additional faults offshore of LA in what is called the borderlands. Many of these faults are sub-parallel to the SAF. The best example is the Newport Inglewood fault (NIF), the locus of the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake. This fault is offshore, but also extends onshore. The NIF is generally a northwest-southeast striking right lateral strike-slip fault just like the SAF.
Some of the east-west faults also extend offshore. Onshore, they are generally thrust faults, but less is known about what they do offshore (i.e. they could have some strike-slip motion too).
Today’s earthquake happened south of Santa Catalina Island, where there is a major fault system that runs through the island: the Santa Cruz Island fault. This fault is mostly a left-lateral strike-slip fault, with a small portion of reverse (compression) motion (Pinter et al, 1998, 2001).
To the north of SC Island, is the Santa Barbara Basin, an oceanic basin that preserves an excellent record of flood and earthquake triggered sedimentary deposits.
If today’s M 5.3 is possibly related to the faults that form the Santa Cruz Basin. I provide some maps of this region below the interpretive poster. Based upon the work conducted by Schindler for their MS Thesis, Today’s earthquake appears associated with the East Santa Cruz Basin fault system (supporting that this was a left-lateral strike-slip earthquake). This is not included in the USGS active fault and fold database, but today’s earthquake suggests that it could be added.
These sedimentary basins are most likely formed from extension when the orientation of strike slip faults is not parallel to the plate motion. These are called “pull apart” basins and are a result of “transtension.” Do an internet search for more about transtension and how pull apart basins can form.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 4.5.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange) for the M 5.3 earthquake, in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include some inset figures.

  • On the right side of the poster are figures from Wallace (1990) and show the main faults associated with the SAF system. I place a blue star in the general location of today’s earthquake (as also in other places on this poster).
  • To the upper left of the Wallace SAF map for California is a figure also from Wallace (1990) that shows more details, including elevation information (color = height or depth).
  • To the lower left of the Wallace SAF map for CA is a figure that shows the high resolution bathymetry (seafloor shape) for the Santa Cruz Basin.
  • In the upper left corner is a seismotectonic map of the CA Borderlands (Legg et al., 2015). They show faults and their sense of motion. There are also focal mechanisms for historic earthquakes.
  • In the lower left corner is a larger scale map of this region, showing the faults as mapped by Schindler (2007).


USGS Earthquake Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is the figure showing the evolution of the SAF since its inception about 29 Ma. I include the USGS figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • EVOLUTION OF THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT.
    This series of block diagrams shows how the subduction zone along the west coast of North America transformed into the San Andreas Fault from 30 million years ago to the present. Starting at 30 million years ago, the westward- moving North American Plate began to override the spreading ridge between the Farallon Plate and the Pacific Plate. This action divided the Farallon Plate into two smaller plates, the northern Juan de Fuca Plate (JdFP) and the southern Cocos Plate (CP). By 20 million years ago, two triple junctions began to migrate north and south along the western margin of the West Coast. (Triple junctions are intersections between three tectonic plates; shown as red triangles in the diagrams.) The change in plate configuration as the North American Plate began to encounter the Pacific Plate resulted in the formation of the San Andreas Fault. The northern Mendicino Triple Junction (M) migrated through the San Francisco Bay region roughly 12 to 5 million years ago and is presently located off the coast of northern California, roughly midway between San Francisco (SF) and Seattle (S). The Mendicino Triple Junction represents the intersection of the North American, Pacific, and Juan de Fuca Plates. The southern Rivera Triple Junction (R) is presently located in the Pacific Ocean between Baja California (BC) and Manzanillo, Mexico (MZ). Evidence of the migration of the Mendicino Triple Junction northward through the San Francisco Bay region is preserved as a series of volcanic centers that grow progressively younger toward the north. Volcanic rocks in the Hollister region are roughly 12 million years old whereas the volcanic rocks in the Sonoma-Clear Lake region north of San Francisco Bay range from only few million to as little as 10,000 years old. Both of these volcanic areas and older volcanic rocks in the region are offset by the modern regional fault system. (Image modified after original illustration by Irwin, 1990 and Stoffer, 2006.)

  • Here is a map that shows the shaking potential for earthquakes in CA. This comes from the state of California here. Note how Santa Cruz Island has an increased chance of hazard due to the Santa Cruz Island fault.

  • Earthquake shaking hazards are calculated by projecting earthquake rates based on earthquake history and fault slip rates, the same data used for calculating earthquake probabilities. New fault parameters have been developed for these calculations and are included in the report of the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities. Calculations of earthquake shaking hazard for California are part of a cooperative project between USGS and CGS, and are part of the National Seismic Hazard Maps. CGS Map Sheet 48 (revised 2008) shows potential seismic shaking based on National Seismic Hazard Map calculations plus amplification of seismic shaking due to the near surface soils.

  • Here is a map that shows the tectonic provides in this region (Legg et al. (2015). While the region inherits topography and geologic structures from past tectonic regimes, the dominant tectonic control here is currently the North America – Pacific plate boundary.

  • Map of the California Continental Borderland showing major tectonic features and moderate earthquake locations (M >5.5). The dashed box shows area of this study. The large arrows show relative plate motions for the Pacific-North America transform fault boundary (~N40° ± 2°W; RM2 and PA-1 [Plattner et al., 2007]). BP = Banning Pass, CH = Chino Hills, CP = Cajon Pass, LA = Los Angeles, PS = Palm Springs, V = Ventura, ESC = Santa Cruz Basin, ESCBZ = East Santa Cruz Basin fault zone, SCI = Santa Catalina Island, SCL = San Clemente Island, SMB = Santa Monica Basin, and SNI = San Nicolas Island. Base map from GeoMapApp/Global Multi-Resolution Topography (GMRT) [Ryan et al., 2009].

  • This shows the timeline of what has controlled the tectonics in this region (Legg et al., 2015).

  • Chronology of major Cenozoic events in the Southern California region (after Wright [1991] and Legg and Kamerling [2012]). Intensity of tectonic deformation is represented by the curve. Local (Los Angeles Basin) biostratigraphic zonation is shown. The slanted labels for Neogene stages represent the time-transgressive nature of these boundaries.

  • Here is the figure with more details about the tectonic interpretation of the area (Legg et al., 2015)

  • Map showing bathymetry, Quaternary faults, and recent seismicity in the Outer Borderland. Fault locations are based on the high-resolution bathymetry, available high-resolution seismic reflection profiles, and published fault maps [cf. California Geological Survey (CGS), 2010]. The red symbols show magnitude-scaled (M>4) epicenters for seismicity recorded for the period of 1932 to 2013. Seismicity data and focal mechanisms are derived from the Southern California Seismograph Network catalogs, National Earthquake Information Center [2012–2013], and Legg [1980]. Focal mechanism event numbers correspond to Table S2 in the supporting information. The black rectangle shows location of Figure 10. The light blue lines show tracklines of multichannel seismic profiles—the labeled white profiles are shown in Figures 12 (124) and 13 (108 and 126).

  • Here is the summary figure from Legg et al. (2015). This helps us put these faults systems into context.

  • Map showing major active tectonic elements of the northern part of the California Continental Borderland. Major active (Quaternary) faults are shown in red (SAF = San Andreas fault, ABF = Agua Blanca fault, SCF = San Clemente fault, and SCCR = Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge, Ferrelo). Major strike-slip offsets are shown by shaded areas with estimated displacement (EK = Emery Knoll crater; Tanner Basin near DB = Dall Bank; and SDT = San Diego Trough, small pull-apart near Catalina). Other symbols show oblique fault character including transpressional restraining bends (CAT = Santa Catalina Island, CB = Cortes Bank, and TB = Tanner Bank), uplifts (SRI = Santa Rosa Island, SCz = Santa Cruz Island, SNI = San Nicolas Island, CB = Cortes Bank, TB = Tanner Bank, and SBM = San Bernardino Mountains), and transtensional pull-apart basins (SD = San Diego, ENS = Ensenada, SCB = San Clemente Basin, and SIB = San Isidro Basin). The large arrows show Pacific-North America relative plate motions with the blue dashed line (PAC-NAM) along a small circle for the RM2 [Minster and Jordan, 1978] plate motions model through San Clemente Island (SCL). Boundary between the Inner and Outer Borderland follows the East Santa Cruz Basin fault zone (dotted line; modified from Schindler [2010] and De Hoogh [2012]). Holocene volcanoes exist along the coast (SQ= San Quintín) and within the Gulf of California Rift (CP = Cerro Prieto and Obsidian Buttes, Salton Trough). Dates show year of earthquakes with mapped focal mechanisms (see Table S2 in the supporting information). SB = Santa Barbara, LA = Los Angeles, and PS = Palm Springs.

  • The Santa Barbara Basin to the north has an excellent Holocene record of floods and earthquakes (Du et al., 2018). Here is a plot showing the ages of possible earthquake triggered turbidites (submarine landslide deposits) from the Santa Barbara Basin.

  • Probability density functions (PDFs) for the 19 turbidites (olive layers) in core MV0811-14JC and core SPR090106KC in Santa Barbara Basin generated from Bacon 2.2. Brackets show 95% confidence intervals. Estimate emergence times of the Newport-Inglewood Fault (Leeper et al., 2017) in pink, Ventura- Pitas Point Fault (Rockwell et al., 2016) in green, Ventura blind thrust fault (McAuliffe et al., 2015) in purple, Compton Thrust Fault (Leon et al., 2009) in yellow and the Goleta Slide Complex (Fisher et al., 2005)in gray. Age of slumped material in 14JC is indicated by wavy texture. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)

  • As I mentioned, there is some uplift associated with compression along the Santa Cruz Island fault (Pinter et al., 2001). This plot shows uplift across the region in the form of uplifted marine terraces. This plot assumes these marine terraces were formed at the same time, so if there were no differential tectonic uplift, these lines would be horizontal.

  • Cross-sectional profile A-B-C on Santa Rosa Island (see Fig. 3) showing corrected terrace elevations. SRIF shows the locations of the Santa Rosa Island fault. Error bars are the sum of the ±1 s uncertainties in wave-cut platform slope and the GPS measurement errors. Note the change in vertical exaggeration between the lower and upper plots. The green curve was qualitatively fit to the T2 data in order to create the smoothest possible curve that conforms to all points; other curves are scaled versions of the T2 curve. Point spacing is too coarse and error bars too large on the other levels to show deformation details, but the scaled curves show that every measured point is consistent with the pattern measured on T2.

  • This is a diagram that shows how a pull apart basin might form (Wu et al., 2009).

  • General characteristics of a pull-apart basin in a dextral side-stepping fault system. The pull-apart basin is defined to develop in pure strike-slip when alpha = 0 degrees and in transtension when 0 degrees < alpha 45 degrees.

  • This figure shows the results of modeling in clay, showing a pull apart basin form (Wu et al., 2009).

  • Plan view evolution of transtensional pull-apart basin model illustrated with: (a) time-lapse overhead photography; and (b) fault interpretation and incremental basin subsidence calculated from differential laser scans. Initial and final baseplate geometry shown with dashed lines; (c) basin topography at end of experiment.

Geologic Fundamentals

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).

  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

Social Media

    References:

  • Du, X., Hendy, I., Schimmelmann, 2018. A 9000-year flood history for Southern California: A revised stratigraphy of varved sediments in Santa Barbara Basin in Marine Geology, v. 397, p. 29-42, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2017.11.014
  • Legg, M. R., M. D. Kohler, N. Shintaku, and D. S. Weeraratne, 2015. Highresolution mapping of two large-scale transpressional fault zones in the California Continental Borderland: Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge and Ferrelo faults, J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf., 120, 915–942, doi:10.1002/2014JF003322.
  • Pinter, N., Lueddecke, S.B., Keller, E.A., Simmons, K.R., 1998. Late Quaternary slip on the Santa Cruz Island fault, California in GSA Bulletin, v. 110, no. 6, p. 711-722
  • Pinter, N., Johns, B., Little, B., Vestal, W.D., 2001. Fault-Related Folding in California’s Northern Channel Islands Documented by Rapid-Static GPS Positioning in GSA Today, May, 2001
  • Schindler, C.S., 2010. 3D Fault Geometry and Basin Evolution in the Northern Continental Borderland Offshore Southern California Catherine Sarah Schindler, B.S. A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Physics and Geology California State University Bakersfield In Partial Fulfillment for the Degree of Masters of Science in Geology
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp1515].

Earthquake Report: 1971 Sylmar, CA

This earthquake was the second earthquake in the state of CA to lead to major changes in how people in the state handled earthquake hazards and risk and today is the 47th anniversary of this earthquake. The first important earthquake was the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake, which led to major changes in the building code (first in Long Beach, then later adopted by the entire state). These changes in the building code have continued to evolve and improve, eventually adopted globally. The 1971 M 6.7 Sylmar Earthquake (a little larger than the M 6.4 damaging earthquake sequence recently that happened in Taiwan) caused major damage to buildings and other infrastructure in southern CA (e.g a hospital was destroyed, which caused many casualties). The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was important too, so I don’t want the SAF to feel left out. Though the 1933 Long Beach and 1971 Sylmar earthquakes seem to have led to more significant changes in how people approach earthquake hazards and risk.
A major positive result from the Sylmar Earthquake was the Alquist Priolo Act. The AP Act created a requirement to characterize all the active faults in the state of CA and to regulate how to consider how structures could be built in relation to these active faults. More about the AP Act can be found here. After several years of no support from the state, the CA Geological Survey has recently supported work in this regard, resulting in an update of their guidelines in how to apply the AP Act in Special Publication 42.
I put together a commemorative #EarthquakeReport interpretive poster to discuss the tectonics of the region. The San Andreas fault (SAF) system is the locus of ~75% of the Pacific-North America plate boundary motion. The SAF is in some places a mature fault with a single strand and in other places, there are multiple strands (e.g. the Elsinore, San Jacinto, and SAF in southern CA or the Maacama, Bartlett Springs, and SAF in northern CA). In southern CA, the SAF makes a bend (called the “Big Bend”) that forms a region of compression. This compression is realized in the form of thrust faults and folds, creating uplift forming the mountain ranges like the Santa Monica Mountains. Some of these thrust faults breach the ground surface and some are blind (they don’t reach the surface).
In 1971 there was a large earthquake (M 6.7) that caused tremendous amounts of damage in southern CA. A hospital was built along one of the faults and this earthquake caused the hospital to collapse killing many people. The positive result of this earthquake is that the Alquist Priolo Act was written and passed in the state legislature. I plot the moment tensor for the 1971 earthquake (Carena and Suppe, 2002).
Then, over 2 decades later, there was the M 6.7 Northridge Earthquake. This earthquake was very damaging. Here is a page that links to some photos of the damage. Here is the USGS website for this 1971 M 6.7 Sylmar Earthquake.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 4.5.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange) for the M 6.7 earthquake, in addition to some of the significant earthquakes in southern CA.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include a legend showing the relative age of most recent activity for faults shown on the map. These faults are from the USGS Active Fault and Fold Database. More can be found about this database here.
  • I include some inset figures.

  • In the upper left corner is a map of the faults in southern CA (Tucker and Dolan, 2001). Strike-slip faults (like the SAF) have arrows on either side of the fault desginating the relative motion across the fault. Thrust faults have triangle barbs showing the convergence direction (the triangles are on the side of the fault that is dipping into the Earth).
  • Below this fault map is a low-angle oblique block diagram showing the configuration of thrust faults in the region of the Big Bend. These thrust faults are forming the topography in southern CA. The 1971 and 1994 earthquakes occurred along thrust faults similar to the ones shown in this block diagram.
  • In the upper right corner is a cross section of seismicity associated with the 1971 and 1994 earthquakes (Tsutsumi and Yeats, 1994). 1971 main and aftershocks are in blue and 1994 main and aftershocks are in red. Note how both earthquakes occurred along blind thrust faults. Also note that these faults were dipping in opposite directions (1971 dips to the north (south vergent) and 1994 dips to the south (north vergent).
  • In the lower right corner is another figure showing the aftershocks from the 1971 and 1994 earthquakes (Fuis et al., 2003). This shows their seismic velocity model (with fault interpretations). The 1971 and 1994 earthquake focal mechanisms are shown.
  • In the lower left corner is an illustration that shows the Likelihood of an earthquake with M ≥ 6.7 for the next 30 years. This is based upon the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, Version 3 (UCERF3). More about UCERF3 can be found here. I placed a blue star in the general location of the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake.


  • Here is the same map, but the MMI is plotted as contours.


Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is the fault map from Tucker and Dolan (2001).

  • Regional neotectonic map for metropolitan southern California showing major active faults. The Sierra Madre fault is a 75-km-long active reverse fault that extends along the northern edge of the metropolitan region. Fault locations are from Ziony and Jones (1989), Vedder et al. (1986), Dolan and Sieh (1992), Sorlien (1994), and Dolan et al. (1997, 2000b). Closed teeth denote reverse fault surface trace; open teeth on dashed lines show upper edge of blind thrust fault ramps. Strike-slip fault surface traces shown by double arrows. Star denotes location of Oak Hill paleoseismologic trench site of Bonilla (1973). CSI, Clamshell-Sawpit fault; ELATB, East Los Angeles blind thrust system; EPT, Elysian park blind thrust fault; Hol Fl, Hollywood fault; PHT, Puente Hills blind thrust fault; RMF, Red Mountain fault; SCII, Santa Cruz Island fault; SSF, Santa Susana fault; SJcF, San Jacinto fault; SJF, San Jose fault; VF, Verdugo fault; A, Altadena study site of Rubin et al. (1998); LA, Los Angeles; LB, Long Beach; LC, La Crescenta; M, Malibu; NB, Newport Beach; Ox, Oxnard; P, Pasadena; PH, Port Hueneme; S, Horsethief Canyon study site in San Dimas; V, Ventura. Dark shading denotes mountains.

  • This is a figure that is based upon Fuis et al. (2001) as redrawn by UNAVCO that shows the orientation of thrust faults in this region of southern CA. Below the block diagram is a map showing the location of their seismic experiment (LARSE = Line 1; Fuis et al., 2003).

  • Schematic block diagram showing interpreted tectonics in vicinity of LARSE line 1. Active faults are shown in orange, and moderate and large earthquakes are shown with orange stars and attached dates, magnitudes, and names. Gray half-arrows show relative motions on faults. Small white arrows show block motions in vicinities of bright reflective zones A and B (see Fig. 2A). Large white arrows show relative convergence direction of Pacific and North American plates. We interpret a master decollement ascending from bright reflective zone A at San Andreas fault, above which brittle upper crust is imbricating along thrust and reverse faults and below which lower crust is flowing toward San Andreas fault (brown arrows) and depressing Moho. Fluid injection, indicated by small lenticular blue areas, is envisioned in bright reflective zones A and B.


    Shaded relief map of Los Angeles region, southern California, showing Quaternary faults (thin black lines, dotted where buried), shotpoints (gray and orange filled circles), seismographs (gray and orange lines), air-gun bursts (dashed yellow lines), and epicenters of earthquakes .M 5.8 since 1933 (focal mechanisms with attached magnitudes: 6.7a—Northridge [Hauksson et al., 1995], 6.7b—San Fernando [Heaton, 1982], 5.9—Whittier Narrows [Hauksson et al., 1988], 5.8—Sierra Madre [Hauksson, 1994], 6.3—Long Beach [Hauksson, 1987]). Faults are labeled in red; abbreviations: HF—Hollywood fault, MCF—Malibu Coast fault, MHF—Mission Hills fault, NHF—Northridge Hills fault, RF—Raymond fault, SF—San Fernando surface breaks, SSF—Santa Susana fault, SMoF—Santa Monica fault, SMFZ—Sierra Madre fault zone, VF—Verdugo fault. NH is Newhall.

  • Here are the figures from Hauksson et al. (1995) showing the regions effected by earthquakes in southern CA.

  • (A) Significant earthquakes of M >= 4.8 that have occurred in the greater Los Angeles basin area since 1920. Aftershock zones are shaded with cross hatching, including the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Dotted areas indicate surface rupture, including the rupture of the 1857 earthquake along the San Andreas fault. (B) Lower hemisphere focal mechanisms (shaded quadrants are compressional) for significant earthquakes that have occurred since 1933 in the greater Los Angeles area.

  • Here is the seismicity cross section plot from Tsutsumi and Yeats (1999).

  • Cross section down to 20 km depth across the central San Fernando Valley, including the 1971 Sylmar and 1994 Northridge earthquake zones. See Figure 2 for location of the section and Figure 3 for stratigraphic abbreviations. Wells are identified in the Appendix. Aftershock data for the 1971 (blue) and 1994 (red) earthquakes within a 10-km-wide strip including the line of this section are provided by Jim Mori at Kyoto University. Abbreviation for faults: MHF, Mission Hills fault; NHF, Northridge Hills fault; SSF, Santa Susana fault.

  • Here is the figure from Fuis et al. (2003) showing their interpretation of seismic data from the region. These data are from a seismic experiment also plotted in the map above. The panel on the left is A and the panel on the right is B. This is their figure 3.

  • Cross section along part of line 2 with superposition of various data layers. A: Tomographic velocity model plus line drawing extracted from reflection data (see text); heavier black lines represent better-correlated or higher-amplitude phases. B: Velocity model plus relocated aftershocks of 1971 San Fernando and 1994 Northridge earthquakes (brown and blue dots, respectively); main shock focal mechanisms (far hemispheres) are red (San Fernando; Heaton, 1982) and blue (Northridge; Hauksson et al., 1995). Aftershocks are projected onto line 2 from up to 10 km east.

  • This is a smaller scale cross section from Fuis et al. (2003) showing a broader view of the faults in this region. This shows the velocity model color legend that also applies to the above figure. This is their figure 4.

  • Similar to Fig. 3, with expanded depth and distance frame. See caption for Fig. 3 for definition of red, magneta, and blue lines; orange line—interpreted San Andreas fault (SAF); yellow lines—south-dipping reflectors of Mojave Desert and northern Transverse Ranges; “K” —reflection of Cheadle et al. (1986), which is out of plane of this section. SAF is not imaged directly; interpretation is based on approximate northward termination of upper reflections (best constrained) in San Fernando reflective zone (magenta lines). (See similar interpretation for SAF on line 1—Fig. 5.) Wells shown in Mojave Desert are (s) H&K Exploration Co., (t) Meridian Oil Co. (Dibblee, 1967). For well color key, see caption for Fig. 3. Thin, dashed yellow-orange line—estimated base of Cenozoic sedimentary rocks in Mojave Desert based on velocity. Darker, multicolored region (above region of light violet) represents part of velocity model where resolution ≥ 0.4 (see color bar).

  • Here is a fascinating figure from Carena and Suppe (2002) showing the 3-dimensional configuration of the faults involved in the 1971 and 1994 earthquakes.

  • Perspective view, looking from the SE, of the modeled Northridge and San Fernando thrusts. The Northridge thrust stops at a depth of about 6 km, and its upper tip east of the lateral ramp (Fig. 4) terminates almost against the San Fernando thrust, as was suggested by Morti et al. (1993). The San Fernando thrust loser tip is at a depth o 13 km, whereas the Northridge thrust lower tip is at 32 km.

  • Here is a map view of the Carena and Suppe (2002) interpretation of these fault planes.

  • Schematic geological map showing the position of the main faults and folds, as well as the depth contours (contour interval = 1 km) of the Northridge (solid) and San Fernando (dashed) thrusts.

  • Here is a structural cross section across this region (Carena and Suppe, 2002).

  • Cross-section through the San Fernando Valley with projected aftershocks of the 1994 Northridge earthquake and of the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. The Northridge aftershocks are projected from a distance of 1 km or less on each side of the cross-section (main shock projected from 2 km W), whereas those of the Sylmar earthquake are projected from 1.5 km or less (main shock projected from 5 km ESE). The sources that we used for near-surface geology and structure are Dibblee (1991) and a seismic line (Fig. 11). The large N-S changes in Upper Tertiary stratigraphic thicknesses in this region (Dibblee, 1991, 1992a), prevent detailed stratigraphic correlation across fault blocks (this figure and Fig. 12). This face suggests that the shallow faults and possible the deeper San Fernando thrust itself, are reactivating old normal faults of the southern margin of the Ventura Basin (Yeats, et al., 1994; Huftle and Yeats, 1996; Tsutsumi and Yeats, 1999). Location of cross-section is in Fig. 13.

  • Here is a comparison of the ground shaking intensity for these two earthquakes (1971 Sylmar vs. 1994 Northridge). These earthquakes had similar magnitudes, but the 1994 earthquake had a higher MMI. The upper panels are the USGS Shakemaps, which are model based estimates of shaking intensity, based on Ground Motion Predicti0on Equations (GMPE; attenuation relations). The lower panels plot two different sets of data. The orange lines are regression lines that represent how shaking intensity diminishes (attenuates) with distance from the earthquake. These are regressions based upon these GMPE relations. More about GMPE relations can be found here. The dots are data from real observations made by people who have reported this on the USGS Did You Feel It? website for each of these earthquakes. More about the DYFI program can be found here.

Some Background Materials

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).

  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. Many of the earthquakes people are familiar with in the Mendocino triple junction region are either compressional or strike slip. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

Documentaries


Social Media

References

  • Carena, S. and Supper, J., 2002. Three-dimensional imaging of active structures using earthquake aftershocks: the Northridge thrust, California in Journal of Structural Geology, v. 24, p. 887-904.
  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Fuis, G.S>, Ryberg, T., Godfrey, N.J>, Okaya, D.A., and Murphy, J.M., 2001. Crustal structure and tectonics from the Los Angeles basin to the Mojave Desert, southern California in Geology, v. 29, no. 1. p. 15-18.
  • Fuis, G.S. et al., 2003. Fault systems of the 1971 San Fernando and 1994 Northridge earthquakes, southern California: Relocated aftershocks and seismic images from LARSE II in Geology, v. 31, no. 2, p. 171-174.
  • Hauksson, E., Jones, L.M., and Hutton, K., 1995. The 1994 Northridge earthquake sequence in California: Seismological and tectonic aspects in Journal of Geophysical Research, v., 100, no. B7, p. 12235-12355.
  • Tsutsumi, H. and Yeats, R.S., 1999. Tectonic Setting of the 1971 Sylmar and 1994 Northridge Earthquakes in the San Fernando Valley, California in BSSA, v. 89, p. 1232-1249.
  • Tucker, A.Z. and Dolan, J.F., 2001. Paleoseismologic Evidence for a ~8 Ka Age of the Most Recent Surface Rupture on the Eastern Sierra Madre Fault, Northern Los Angeles Metropolitan Region, California in BSSA, v. 91, no. 2, p. 232-249.

Earthquake Report: Berkeley, CA (Hayward fault)

There was an earthquake last night (local time) in Berkeley, aligned with the Hayward fault. The Hayward fault is one of the synthetic sister faults to the San Andreas fault, the major player in the dextral (right-lateral, strike-slip) plate boundary between the Pacific plate and the North America plate to the east.
Over 35,000 people have reported their observations on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website for this earthquake. If you live in this region, please visit this website and register your observations!
The San Andreas fault is a right-lateral strike-slip transform plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates. The plate boundary is composed of faults that are parallel to sub-parallel to the SAF and extend from the west coast of CA to the Wasatch fault (WF) system in central Utah (the WF runs through Salt Lake City and is expressed by the mountain range on the east side of the basin that Salt Lake City is built within).
About 75% of the relative plate motion is accommodated along the SAF and its synthetic sister faults in the northern CA region. The rest of the plate boundary motion is accommodated along the Eastern CA shear zone and Walker Lane, along with the Central Nevada Seismic Belt, and the Wasatch fault systems. In Northern CA, there is about 33-37 mm/yr strain accumulated on the SAF plate boundary system. About 18-25 mm/yr is on the SAF, 8-11 mm/yr on the MF, and 5-7 mm/yr on the Bartlett Springs fault system (Geist and Andrews, 2000).
The three main faults in the region north of San Francisco are the SAF, the Hayward fault (HF), and the Calaveras fault (CF). However, there are several others that pose a risk to the inhabitants here. Most of the faults in the region are right-lateral strike-slip faults, just like the SAF.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake:

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M > 4.0.
I use the USGS Quaternary fault and fold database for the faults.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue,focal mechanisms in orange) for some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely. Based upon the tectonics associated with the San Andreas and Hayward faults, I interpret this M 4.4 earthquake to be a right-lateral strike-slip fault.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include some inset figures.

  • On the right, I include generalized fault map of northern California from Wallace (1990). I place a blue star in the general location of today’s M 4.4 earthquake.
  • In the upper left corner is a map from Aagaard et al. (2016) that shows the probability (chance of) an earthquake along various faults for the next 30 years or so. Note that the HF has the highest likelihood of generating an earthquake with magnitude M ≥ 6.7.
  • In the lower left corner I include a larger scale map showing the details of the mapped faults.



More about the background seismotectonics

  • I place a map shows the configuration of faults in central (San Francisco) and northern (Point Delgada – Punta Gorda) CA (Wallace, 1990). Here is the caption for this map, that is on the lower left corner of my map. Below the citation is this map presented on its own.

  • Geologic sketch map of the northern Coast Ranges, central California, showing faults with Quaternary activity and basin deposits in northern section of the San Andreas fault system. Fault patterns are generalized, and only major faults are shown. Several Quaternary basins are fault bounded and aligned parallel to strike-slip faults, a relation most apparent along the Hayward-Rodgers Creek-Maacama fault trend.

  • Here is a map from McLaughlin et al. (2012) that shows the regional faulting. I include the figure caption as a blockquote below.

  • Maps showing the regional setting of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama fault system and the San Andreas fault in northern California. (A) The Maacama (MAFZ) and Rodgers Creek (RCFZ) fault zones and related faults (dark red) are compared to the San Andreas fault, former and present positions of the Mendocino Fracture Zone (MFZ; light red, offshore), and other structural features of northern California. Other faults east of the San Andreas fault that are part of the wide transform margin are collectively referred to as the East Bay fault system and include the Hayward and proto-Hayward fault zones (green) and the Calaveras (CF), Bartlett Springs, and several other faults (teal). Fold axes (dark blue) delineate features associated with compression along the northern and eastern sides of the Coast Ranges. Dashed brown line marks inferred location of the buried tip of an east-directed tectonic wedge system along the boundary between the Coast Ranges and Great Valley (Wentworth et al., 1984; Wentworth and Zoback, 1990). Dotted purple line shows the underthrust south edge of the Gorda–Juan de Fuca plate, based on gravity and aeromagnetic data (Jachens and Griscom, 1983). Late Cenozoic volcanic rocks are shown in pink; structural basins associated with strike-slip faulting and Sacramento Valley are shown in yellow. Motions of major fault blocks and plates relative to fi xed North America, from global positioning system and paleomagnetic studies (Argus and Gordon, 2001; Wells and Simpson, 2001; U.S. Geological Survey, 2010), shown with thick black arrows; circled numbers denote rate (in mm/yr). Restraining bend segment of the northern San Andreas fault is shown in orange; releasing bend segment is in light blue. Additional abbreviations: BMV—Burdell Mountain Volcanics; QSV—Quien Sabe Volcanics. (B) Simplifi ed map of color-coded faults in A, delineating the principal fault systems and zones referred to in this paper.

  • Here is the figure showing the evolution of the SAF since its inception about 29 Ma. I include the USGS figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • EVOLUTION OF THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT.
    This series of block diagrams shows how the subduction zone along the west coast of North America transformed into the San Andreas Fault from 30 million years ago to the present. Starting at 30 million years ago, the westward- moving North American Plate began to override the spreading ridge between the Farallon Plate and the Pacific Plate. This action divided the Farallon Plate into two smaller plates, the northern Juan de Fuca Plate (JdFP) and the southern Cocos Plate (CP). By 20 million years ago, two triple junctions began to migrate north and south along the western margin of the West Coast. (Triple junctions are intersections between three tectonic plates; shown as red triangles in the diagrams.) The change in plate configuration as the North American Plate began to encounter the Pacific Plate resulted in the formation of the San Andreas Fault. The northern Mendicino Triple Junction (M) migrated through the San Francisco Bay region roughly 12 to 5 million years ago and is presently located off the coast of northern California, roughly midway between San Francisco (SF) and Seattle (S). The Mendicino Triple Junction represents the intersection of the North American, Pacific, and Juan de Fuca Plates. The southern Rivera Triple Junction (R) is presently located in the Pacific Ocean between Baja California (BC) and Manzanillo, Mexico (MZ). Evidence of the migration of the Mendicino Triple Junction northward through the San Francisco Bay region is preserved as a series of volcanic centers that grow progressively younger toward the north. Volcanic rocks in the Hollister region are roughly 12 million years old whereas the volcanic rocks in the Sonoma-Clear Lake region north of San Francisco Bay range from only few million to as little as 10,000 years old. Both of these volcanic areas and older volcanic rocks in the region are offset by the modern regional fault system. (Image modified after original illustration by Irwin, 1990 and Stoffer, 2006.)

  • Here is a map that shows the shaking potential for earthquakes in CA. This comes from the state of California here.

  • Earthquake shaking hazards are calculated by projecting earthquake rates based on earthquake history and fault slip rates, the same data used for calculating earthquake probabilities. New fault parameters have been developed for these calculations and are included in the report of the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities. Calculations of earthquake shaking hazard for California are part of a cooperative project between USGS and CGS, and are part of the National Seismic Hazard Maps. CGS Map Sheet 48 (revised 2008) shows potential seismic shaking based on National Seismic Hazard Map calculations plus amplification of seismic shaking due to the near surface soils.

  • Here is the earthquake probability map for the SF Bay area (Aagard et al., 2016).

  • This shows a timeline for historic earthquakes in this region.

  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. Many of the earthquakes people are familiar with in the Mendocino triple junction region are either compressional or strike slip. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:
  • Compressional:
  • Extensional:
  • This figure shows what a transform plate boundary fault is. Looking down from outer space, the crust on either side of the fault moves side-by-side. When one is standing on the ground, on one side of the fault, looking across the fault as it moves… If the crust on the other side of the fault moves to the right, the fault is a “right lateral” strike slip fault. The Mendocino and San Andreas faults are right-lateral (dextral) strike-slip faults. I believe this is from Pearson Higher Ed.

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).


    References:

  • Aagaard, B.T., Blair, J.L., Boatwright, J., Garcia, S.H., Harris, R.A., Michael, A.J., Schwartz, D.P., DiLeo, J.S., Jacques, K., and Donlin, C., 2016. Earthquake Outlook for the San Francisco Bay Region 2014–2043 in USGS Fact Sheet 2016–3020 Revised August 2016 (ver. 1.1) ISSN 2327-6916 (print) ISSN 2327-6932 (online) http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20163020
  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp1515].

Earthquake Report: Laytonville (northern CA)!

This morning there was a small earthquake in a region of northern California between two major faults that are part of the Pacific-North America plate boundary. The M 4.3 earthquake occurred between the San Andreas fault (SAF) to the west and the Maacma fault (MF) to the east. There are no mapped earthquake faults in this region.
The San Andreas fault is a right-lateral strike-slip transform plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates. The plate boundary is composed of faults that are parallel to sub-parallel to the SAF and extend from the west coast of CA to the Wasatch fault (WF) system in central Utah (the WF runs through Salt Lake City and is expressed by the mountain range on the east side of the basin that Salt Lake City is built within).
About 75% of the relative plate motion is accommodated along the SAF and its synthetic sister faults in the northern CA region. The rest of the plate boundary motion is accommodated along the Eastern CA shear zone and Walker Lane, along with the Central Nevada Seismic Belt, and the Wasatch fault systems. In Northern CA, there is about 33-37 mm/yr strain accumulated on the SAF plate boundary system. About 18-25 mm/yr is on the SAF, 8-11 mm/yr on the MF, and 5-7 mm/yr on the Bartlett Springs fault system (Geist and Andrews, 2000).
The three main faults in the region north of San Francisco are the SAF, the MF, and the Bartlett Springs fault (BSF). I also place a graphical depiction of the USGS moment tensor for this earthquake. The SAF, MF, and BSF are all right lateral strike-slip fault systems. There are no active faults mapped in the region of Sunday’s epicenter, but I interpret this earthquake to have right-lateral slip. Without more seismicity or mapped faults to suggest otherwise, this is a reasonable interpretation.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M > 4.0.
I use the USGS Quaternary fault and fold database for the faults. I outlined the Vizcaino Block, which many interpret to be a prehistoric subduction zone accretionary prism from a time before the San Andreas existed.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue) for some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely. Based upon the tectonics associated with the San Andreas and Maacama faults, I interpret this M 4.3 earthquake to be a right-lateral strike-slip fault.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (McCrory et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.
  • Here are the USGS pages for the main earthquake in this sequence.
  • 2017.12.14 M 4.3
  • 2016.11.06 M 4.1
  • 2012.07.08 M 4.4
  • 1999.01.24 M 4.1
  • I include some inset figures.

  • In the upper right corner I include a map and cross section from Wallace (1990). The map shows earthquake epicenters, the major faults, and outlines delineating the regions from which seismicity is plotted in various cross sectional views. Below the map is the cross section E-E.’ Seismicity associated with the MF and Bartlett Springs fault are fairly obvious, while seismicity associated with the SAF is less localized along the fault (probably because the fault is offshore, the smaller magnitude seismicity does not plot here). I place blue stars on the map and on the cross section, in the general location of today’s M 4.3 earthquake.
  • In the upper left corner I include generalized fault map of northern California from Wallace (1990). I place a blue star in the general location of today’s M 4.3 earthquake.
  • To the right of the Wallace (1990) map, is a figure from Langenheim et al., 2013. Langenheim et al. (2013) used magnetic anomalies to break out structural domains within the Cretaceous Franciscan Formation, the main basement geology in this region of northern California. There are some folds in the Franciscan Formation, with dips interpreted from the anomaly data. Today’s M 4.3 earthquake (the larger blue star) is located along the boundary of domains 1 and 2. The 1999.01.24 M 4.1 earthquake (smaller blue star)is within domain 1, is a thrust earthquake, and is oriented correctly to be associated with the thrust faults here. Perhaps these faults are being reactivated in the modern SAF dextral regime.
  • In the lower left corner I include a larger scale map showing the details of the mapped faults.
  • To the right of this large scale map, I include the Earthquake Shaking Potential map from the state of California. This is a probabilistic seismic hazard map, basically a map that shows the likelihood that there will be shaking of a given amount over a period of time. More can be found from the California Geological Survey here. I place a blue star in the approximate location of today’s earthquake.


Below are some earthquake report posters for earthquakes in this region.

  • Earlier in November 2016, there was an earthquake in this region. Below is my interpretive poster for that earthquake. Here is my Earthquake Report.

  • Earlier the year in 2016, there was an earthquake in this region, along the BSF. Below is my interpretive poster for that earthquake. Here is my Earthquake Report.

  • In 2015 there was an earthquake in this region. Below is my interpretive poster for that earthquake. Here is my Earthquake Report.


  • I place a map shows the configuration of faults in central (San Francisco) and northern (Point Delgada – Punta Gorda) CA (Wallace, 1990). Here is the caption for this map, that is on the lower left corner of my map. Below the citation is this map presented on its own.

  • Geologic sketch map of the northern Coast Ranges, central California, showing faults with Quaternary activity and basin deposits in northern section of the San Andreas fault system. Fault patterns are generalized, and only major faults are shown. Several Quaternary basins are fault bounded and aligned parallel to strike-slip faults, a relation most apparent along the Hayward-Rodgers Creek-Maacama fault trend.

  • Here is a map from McLaughlin et al. (2012) that shows the regional faulting. I include the figure caption as a blockquote below.

  • Maps showing the regional setting of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama fault system and the San Andreas fault in northern California. (A) The Maacama (MAFZ) and Rodgers Creek (RCFZ) fault zones and related faults (dark red) are compared to the San Andreas fault, former and present positions of the Mendocino Fracture Zone (MFZ; light red, offshore), and other structural features of northern California. Other faults east of the San Andreas fault that are part of the wide transform margin are collectively referred to as the East Bay fault system and include the Hayward and proto-Hayward fault zones (green) and the Calaveras (CF), Bartlett Springs, and several other faults (teal). Fold axes (dark blue) delineate features associated with compression along the northern and eastern sides of the Coast Ranges. Dashed brown line marks inferred location of the buried tip of an east-directed tectonic wedge system along the boundary between the Coast Ranges and Great Valley (Wentworth et al., 1984; Wentworth and Zoback, 1990). Dotted purple line shows the underthrust south edge of the Gorda–Juan de Fuca plate, based on gravity and aeromagnetic data (Jachens and Griscom, 1983). Late Cenozoic volcanic rocks are shown in pink; structural basins associated with strike-slip faulting and Sacramento Valley are shown in yellow. Motions of major fault blocks and plates relative to fi xed North America, from global positioning system and paleomagnetic studies (Argus and Gordon, 2001; Wells and Simpson, 2001; U.S. Geological Survey, 2010), shown with thick black arrows; circled numbers denote rate (in mm/yr). Restraining bend segment of the northern San Andreas fault is shown in orange; releasing bend segment is in light blue. Additional abbreviations: BMV—Burdell Mountain Volcanics; QSV—Quien Sabe Volcanics. (B) Simplifi ed map of color-coded faults in A, delineating the principal fault systems and zones referred to in this paper.

  • Here is the figure showing the evolution of the SAF since its inception about 29 Ma. I include the USGS figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • EVOLUTION OF THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT.
    This series of block diagrams shows how the subduction zone along the west coast of North America transformed into the San Andreas Fault from 30 million years ago to the present. Starting at 30 million years ago, the westward- moving North American Plate began to override the spreading ridge between the Farallon Plate and the Pacific Plate. This action divided the Farallon Plate into two smaller plates, the northern Juan de Fuca Plate (JdFP) and the southern Cocos Plate (CP). By 20 million years ago, two triple junctions began to migrate north and south along the western margin of the West Coast. (Triple junctions are intersections between three tectonic plates; shown as red triangles in the diagrams.) The change in plate configuration as the North American Plate began to encounter the Pacific Plate resulted in the formation of the San Andreas Fault. The northern Mendicino Triple Junction (M) migrated through the San Francisco Bay region roughly 12 to 5 million years ago and is presently located off the coast of northern California, roughly midway between San Francisco (SF) and Seattle (S). The Mendicino Triple Junction represents the intersection of the North American, Pacific, and Juan de Fuca Plates. The southern Rivera Triple Junction (R) is presently located in the Pacific Ocean between Baja California (BC) and Manzanillo, Mexico (MZ). Evidence of the migration of the Mendicino Triple Junction northward through the San Francisco Bay region is preserved as a series of volcanic centers that grow progressively younger toward the north. Volcanic rocks in the Hollister region are roughly 12 million years old whereas the volcanic rocks in the Sonoma-Clear Lake region north of San Francisco Bay range from only few million to as little as 10,000 years old. Both of these volcanic areas and older volcanic rocks in the region are offset by the modern regional fault system. (Image modified after original illustration by Irwin, 1990 and Stoffer, 2006.)

  • Here is a map that shows the shaking potential for earthquakes in CA. This comes from the state of California here.

  • Earthquake shaking hazards are calculated by projecting earthquake rates based on earthquake history and fault slip rates, the same data used for calculating earthquake probabilities. New fault parameters have been developed for these calculations and are included in the report of the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities. Calculations of earthquake shaking hazard for California are part of a cooperative project between USGS and CGS, and are part of the National Seismic Hazard Maps. CGS Map Sheet 48 (revised 2008) shows potential seismic shaking based on National Seismic Hazard Map calculations plus amplification of seismic shaking due to the near surface soils.

  • Here are three figures from Langenheim et al. (2013). The first one shows the geology of the region. The second map shows the magnetic anomaly data and the second map shows how they interpreted the magnetic anomaly data to reveal different tectonic domains in the Franciscan Formation.

  • Map showing location and geologic setting of the Franciscan Coastal Belt in the northern California Coast Ranges. Inset shows magnetic anomalies (in magenta) of Figure 2 in and near the Coastal Belt, mapped occurrences of basalt (black dots and areas), and associated fossil localities (numbered white X’s; listed in Table 1). Map units: fc—Franciscan False Cape terrane; KRt—Franciscan King Range terrane; Cob—Franciscan Coastal Belt, undivided; Yg—Franciscan Yager terrane; Cnb— Franciscan Central Belt; Eb—Franciscan Eastern Belt; um—ultramafi c rocks; MTJ— Mendocino triple junction; GVg—Great Valley Group; T—Tertiary cover; Q—alluvium, largely Quaternary. Stippled pattern near Fort Ross shows outcrop of Ohlson Ranch Formation. Magenta arrows labeled PAC and GOR show relative plate motion of Pacific and Gorda plates, respectively, relative to the North American plate (McCrory, 2000). Tiny box labeled MH—Marin Headlands (area of Fig. 8). Coastal Belt thrust is shown with thrust teeth. Geology was compiled and simplifi ed from Jennings (1977), Blake et al. (1992), Blake et al. (2002), Jayko et al. (1989), McLaughlin et al. (2000), U.S. Geological Survey and California Geological Survey (2006), and geologic mapping by R.J. McLaughlin northeast of Clear Lake and south of Willits. Southern part of the Coastal Belt thrust west and south of Willits is from (1) mapping by McLaughlin,
    interpretation of aeromagnetic anomalies, and 1:62,500 scale topography, and (2) that east of Point Arena is from photogeologic interpretation that resulted in a greater extent of mélange assigned to the Central Belt.


    Filtered magnetic map of the Coastal Belt. See Langenheim et al. (2011) for details of filtering that places anomalies over magnetic sources and enhances anomalies for which sources are exposed or near surface. Magenta lines—margins of the belt, with the San Andreas fault on the west and the Coastal Belt thrust and other faults on the east. Dashed dark green lines—depositional contacts. Red lines— boundaries between the terranes of the Coastal Belt: Coastal Belt, undivided (Cob), False Cape terrane (fc), King Range terrane (KRt), and Yager terrane (Yg). The Wheatfield Fork terrane (WFt) is too narrow to show at the scale of the figure, but its extent along the eastern boundary of the Coastal Belt is circled in dark blue. Thin dark blue dotted lines separate structural domains discussed in text and shown in figure 6. Blue line—profile location of model shown in Figure 5B.


    Structural domains and dips interpreted from filtered magnetic anomalies (Fig. 2). Layer dip from asymmetry of magnetic anomaly is shown. Dark blue lines separate domains discussed in text. Anomalies within area east of the Coastal Belt thrust may be caused by magnetic layers in the Coastal Belt beneath a thin sheet of Central Belt rocks in the hanging wall of the thrust. Anomalies colored green, blue, and lavender are discussed in text. WFt— Wheatfield Fork terrane. Dashed green line is outline of onshore Eel River basin.

  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. Many of the earthquakes people are familiar with in the Mendocino triple junction region are either compressional or strike slip. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:
  • Compressional:
  • Extensional:
  • This figure shows what a transform plate boundary fault is. Looking down from outer space, the crust on either side of the fault moves side-by-side. When one is standing on the ground, on one side of the fault, looking across the fault as it moves… If the crust on the other side of the fault moves to the right, the fault is a “right lateral” strike slip fault. The Mendocino and San Andreas faults are right-lateral (dextral) strike-slip faults. I believe this is from Pearson Higher Ed.

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).


    References:

  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Wentworht, C.M., and McLaughlin, R.J., 2012. Previously unrecognized regional structure of the Coastal Belt of the Franciscan Complex, northern California, revealed by magnetic data in Geosphere, v. 9, no. 6, doi:10.1130/GES0094
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • McCrory, P.A.,. Blair, J.L., Waldhauser, F., kand Oppenheimer, D.H., 2012. Juan de Fuca slab geometry and its relation to Wadati-Benioff zone seismicity in JGR, v. 117, B09306, doi:10.1029/2012JB009407.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp1515].

Earthquake Report: Trinidad, California

Early this morning, I was awakened by a mild jolt. I thought, well, seems like a M 3+- nearby. I did not get out of bed. The main shaking lasted a couple of seconds, though it seemed that there was some additional shaking for several more seconds afterwards (secondary shaking? I live in the Manila Dunes, which overlie several kms of water saturated sediment.

This earthquake is quite interesting. The hypocentral depth is about 20 km. The subduction zone fault has been modeled to be between 15 and 20 km depth at this location (McCrory et al., 2006, 2012). There is considerable uncertainty associated with this slab model (the “slab” refers to the downgoing oceanic lithosphere of the Gorda plate). If this earthquake were an interface event (on the subduction zone), the moment tensor would probably be a thrust fault solution. However, the USGS moment tensor is for a strike-slip earthquake. There was an M 4.8 earthquake on 2016.07.21 that had a similar orientation. Here are my two earthquake reports for that earthquake: (1) initial report and (2) update # 1. I also spoke with Bob McPherson about this earthquake and, without speaking for him, we agreed that this is indeed an interesting earthquake.

  • So, we can probably rule out this as a subduction zone interface earthquake. Then lets consider the other two options: (1) Gorda plate intraplate earthquake or (2) North America plate intraplate earthquake.
  1. The Gorda plate has a structural grain associated with its initial formation at the Gorda Rise. These faults initially form as ~north-south striking normal faults. As the plate is deformed with time, the faults in the southern half of the plate rotate in a clockwise fashion. As a result of the north-south compression (from the Pacific plate moving northwards,
    crushing the Gorda plate), these northeast striking faults slip with a left-lateral strike-slip motion. Today’s M 3.5 earthquake is not oriented with a northeast orientation. However, as these faults extend northwards, the strike of the faults tend to rotate back with a more northerly strike. It is possible that the faults in the Gorda plate have a north-south strike in the region of today’s earthquake. If this were the case, this would be a north-south striking left-lateral strike-slip earthquake.
  2. The North America plate (NAP) in this region has been sliced and diced by a suite of different tectonic forces that have changed with time. Prior to about 0.5 million years ago, the dominant tectonic regime was simply the subduction zone. The subduction zone exerted stresses into the NAP that resulted in thrust faults (and possibly forearc sliver faults). After that, the San Andreas fault (and the Mendocino triple junction, MTJ) came on the scene. Tertiary rocks have been uplifted and tilted northwards because of this influence. Also, the earlier formed thrust faults may rotate around to a more east-west orientation in the Humboldt Bay and south region. As the MTJ migrates north (which may not be the best way to view this motion), some San Andreas oriented fault motion has penetrated into the region north of the MTJ. The Trinidad and Big Lagoon faults are mapped as strike-slip faults offshore. These faults may have formed this sense of motion prior to the MTJ arrival (due to oblique plate motion on the subduction zone, formed as forearc sliver faults; Lange et al., 2008). One of the strands of the Big Lagoon fault zone is oriented north-south. The only (major) problem with this possibility is that these NAP strike-slip faults are all right-lateral. Today’s moment tensor, if using the north-south solution, is left-lateral. So, this is not a reasonable interpretation.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I highlighted the north-south striking Big Lagoon fault with a yellow line. I also labeled Mt. Shasta. I placed labels for the three major thrust fault systems in this region (Big Lagoon fault zone, Mad River fault zone, and the Little Salmon fault zone). The Big Lagoon and Mad River fault zones have offshore strike-slip motion. Also, the Little Salmon fault probably also has significant strike-slip motion (Pollitz et al., 2010).

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (McCrory et al., 2006, 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault. I label the shallowest contours.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the lower right corner I include a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004, 2006). I mention more about this below.
  • In the upper left corner I include a map from Rollins and Stein (2010) that show some historic earthquakes in the context of the regional tectonics. Their paper documents how these different earthquakes impose increased and decreased coulomb stress upon different faults following these earthquakes.
  • Below the Rollins and Stein (2010) figure is a figure from Chaytor et al. (2004) that shows 7 different models to explain the internal deformation in the Gorda plate.
  • In the upper right corner is a larger scale map showing the USGS Quaternary fault and fold database faults overlain upon Google Earth imagery (just like the main map). I also include labels like in the main map.



Here is the interpretive poster for the 2016.07.21 Bayside Earthquake.

  • Here is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone, modified from Nelson et al. (2004). The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. Sites where evidence of past earthquakes (paleoseismology) are denoted by white dots. Where there is also evidence for past CSZ tsunami, there are black dots. These paleoseismology sites are labeled (e.g. Humboldt Bay). Some submarine paleoseismology core sites are also shown as grey dots. The two main spreading ridges are not labeled, but the northern one is the Juan de Fuca ridge (where oceanic crust is formed for the Juan de Fuca plate) and the southern one is the Gorda rise (where the oceanic crust is formed for the Gorda plate).

  • Here is a version of the CSZ cross section alone (Plafker, 1972). This shows two parts of the earthquake cycle: the interseismic part (between earthquakes) and the coseismic part (during earthquakes). Regions that experience uplift during the interseismic period tend to experience subsidence during the coseismic period.

  • Here is a figure from Chaytor et al. (2004) that shows how they interpret the different faults based upon bathymetric data. Note the north-south striking faults in the northern part of the Gorda plate. However, they are normal faults, not strike slip. So, this makes it more difficult (again) to interpret today’s M 3.5 earthquake.

  • A: Mapped faults and fault-related ridges within Gorda plate based on basement structure and surface morphology, overlain on bathymetric contours (gray lines—250 m interval). Approximate boundaries of three structural segments are also shown. Black arrows indicated approximate location of possible northwest- trending large-scale folds. B, C:
    Uninterpreted and interpreted enlargements of center of plate showing location of interpreted second-generation strike-slip faults and features that they appear to offset. OSC—overlapping spreading center.

  • Here is another figure from Chaytor et al. (2004) that shows the different models for the Gorda plate faults.

  • Models of brittle deformation for Gorda plate overlain on magnetic anomalies modified from Raff and Mason (1961). Models A–F were proposed prior to collection and analysis of full-plate multibeam data. Deformation model of Gulick et al. (2001) is included in model A. Model G represents modification of Stoddard’s (1987) flexural-slip model proposed in this paper.

  • Here is a map showing a number of data sets. Seismicity is plotted versus depth (NCEDC). Tremor is plotted (Pacific Northwest Seismic Network). Vertical Deformation rates are plotted (unpublished). Slab depth contours (km) are plotted (McCrory et al., 2006). Fault locking zones are plotted (Wang et al., 2003; Burgette et al., 2009). Bob McPherson (Humboldt State University, Department of Geology) is currently working on a research paper where he will discuss how the seismicity reveals the location of the seismogenically locked fault zone.

  • Here is a great illustration that shows how forearc sliver faults form due to oblique convergence at a subduction zone (Lange et al., 2008). Strain is partitioned into fault normal faults (the subduction zone) and fault parallel faults (the forearc sliver faults, which are strike-slip). This figure is for southern Chile, but is applicable globally.

  • Proposed tectonic model for southern Chile. Partitioning of the oblique convergence vector between the Nazca plate and South American plate results in a dextral strike-slip fault zone in the magmatic arc and a northward moving forearc sliver. Modified after Lavenu and Cembrano (1999).

  • As mentioned above, Pollitz et al. (2010) modeled interseismic deformation along faults in the Pacific northwest and fit this deformation to GPS geodetic data. The authors evaluated how San Andreas type fault motion penetrates into the southern Cascadia subduction zone. Below are two figures from their paper that helps us understand their interpretations. The upper figure shows the GPS velocity field and the strain rate field for this region of northern California. The lower panel shows an estimate of right-lateral strike-slip rates for the Little Salmon fault.

  • Left-hand panel: velocity field obtained after correcting the observed GPS velocity field (Fig. 3) for the effect of deformation associated with all GDZ, Juan de Fuca, and Explorer plate boundaries. The sources that contribute to the correction are faults #30–46 and 81 of Table 1. Right-hand panel: strain rate fields corresponding to the plotted velocity fields, represented by the amplitudes and directions of the principal strain rate axes (thick and thin line segments denoting a principal contractile or tensile strain rate axis, respectively) and rotation rate (indicated by color shading). It is derived from the velocity field using the velocity-gradient determination method described in appendix A of Pollitz & Vergnolle (2006).


    Estimated right-lateral strike-slip rate on the Little Salmon fault as a function of strike-slip rate on the Russ fault. Reverse slip rate on the Mad River fault is held fixed at 10 mmyr−1. Slip rates are plotted with ±1 SD.

References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Burgette, R. et al., 2009. Interseismic uplift rates for western Oregon and along-strike variation in locking on the Cascadia subduction zone in Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 114, B01408, doi:10.1029/2008JB005679
  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Dziak, R.P., and Fox, C.G., 2004. Active deformation of the Gorda plate: Constraining deformation models with new geophysical data: Geology v. 32, p. 353-356
  • Lange, D., Cembrano, J., Rietbrock, A., Haberland, C., Dahm, T., and Bataille, K., 2008. First seismic record for intra-arc strike-slip tectonics along the Liquiñe-Ofqui fault zone at the obliquely convergent plate margin of the southern Andes in Tectonophysics, v. 455, p. 14-24
  • McCrory, P. A., Blair, J. L., Oppenheimer, D. H., and Walter, S. R., 2006. Depth to the Juan de Fuca slab beneath the Cascadia subduction margin; a 3-D model for sorting earthquakes U. S. Geological Survey
  • McCrory, P. A., Blair, J. L., Waldhauser, F., and Oppenheimer, D. H., 2012. Juan de Fuca slab geometry and its relation to Wadati-Benioff zone seismicity in JGR, v. 117, doi:10.1029/2012JB009407
  • Nelson, A.R., Asquith, A.C., and Grant, W.C., 2004. Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Past 2000 Years at the Salmon River Estuary, Central Oregon Coast, USA: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 1276–1292
  • Nelson, A.R., Kelsey, H.M., and Witter, R.C., 2006. Great earthquakes of variable magnitude at the Cascadia subduction zone: Quaternary Research, doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2006.02.009, p. 354-365.
  • Plafker, G., 1972. Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and Chilean earthquake of 1960: Implications for arc tectonics in Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 77, p. 901-925.
  • Pollitz, F.F., McCrory, P., Wilson, D., Svarc, J., Puskas, C., and Smith, R.B., 2010. Viscoelastic-cycle model of interseismic deformation in the northwestern United States in GJI, v. 181, p. 665-696, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2010.04546.x
  • Rollins, J.C., Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb Stress Interactions Among M ≥ 5.9 Earthquakes in the Gorda Deformation Zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia Subduction Zone, and Northern San Andreas Fault. Journal of Geophysical Research 115, 19 pp.
  • USGS Quaternary Fault Database: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/hazards/qfaults/
  • Wang, K., Wells, R., Mazzotti, S., Hyndman, R. D., and Sagiya, T., 2003. A revised dislocation model of interseismic deformation of the Cascadia subduction zone Journal of Geophysical Research, B, Solid Earth and Planets v. 108, no. 1.

Earthquake Report: 1992.04.25 M 7.1 Petrolia

The 25 April 1992 M 7.1 earthquake was a wake up call for many, like all large magnitude earthquakes are.
I have some updated posters as of April 2021 (see below).
Here is my personal story.
I was driving my girlfriend’s car (Jen Guevara) with her and some housemates up to attend a festival at Redwood Park in Arcata. She lived in the old blue house at the base of the bridge abutment on the southwest side of HWY 101 as it crosses Mad River. The house burned down a couple of years ago, but these memories remain. We were driving along St. Louis and about to turn east to cross the 101 towards LK Wood. The car moved left and right. I pulled over as I thought we might have just gotten a flat tire. I got out, inspected the wheels, and there was no flat. We returned to our journey. When we arrived at the park, everyone was talking about how the redwood trees were flopping around like wet spaghetti during the earthquake. I then looked back in my memory and realized that, at the lumber mill that I had parked by when I got the imaginary flat tire, there were tall stacks of milled lumber flopping around. I had dismissed it that they were blowing in the wind. Silly me.
Later that night, I was at a reggae concert at the Old Creamery Building in Arcata. At some point, the lights flickered off and on. I figured that someone had accidentally brushed up against the light switch on the wall. BUT, this was the first of two large aftershocks.
Even later that night, actually the following morning, I was laying in bed with Jen. The house typically shook when large semi trucks crossed the 101 bridge. However, this time, the shaking had a much longer duration. This was the second of the two major aftershocks. I finally recognized this earthquake as an earthquake and not something else. To my credit, I was dancing during the first major aftershock.

    Here is the USGS website for these three large earthquakes.

  • 1992-04-25 18:06:05 UTC 40.335°N 124.229°W 9.9 km depth M 7.2
  • 1992-04-26 07:41:40 UTC 40.433°N 124.566°W 18.8 km depth M 6.5
  • 1992-04-26 11:18:25 UTC 40.383°N 124.555°W 21.7 km depth M 6.6

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.

I plot the seismicity for a week beginning April 25, 1992, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend)..

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (McCrory et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) and regional tectonic plate boundary faults. This is modified from several sources (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004)
  • Below the CSZ map is an illustration modified from Plafker (1972). This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes.
  • In the upper left corner is a figure from Rollins and Stein (2010). In their paper they discuss how static coulomb stress changes from earthquakes may impart (or remove) stress from adjacent crust/faults. To the right of this map are two panels. The upper panel shows the location and orientation of the fault plane used by Rollins and Stein (2010) to model potential changes in coulomb stress following the 1992 M 7.2 earthquake. The Lower panel shows the results from this modeling.
  • In the lower right corner is the map from Stein et al. (1993). This map shows an estimate of coseismic vertical ground motion induced by the 1992 earthquake sequence.
  • In the upper right corner is a series of USGS shakemaps. These plot intensity using the MMI scale.
  • Below the shakemaps is the “Did You Feel It?” map and attenuation relation plot.


Below is my updated interpretive poster for this earthquake.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner is a small scale map that shows the tectonic plates and their boundaries, along with USGS NEIC seismicity from 1921-2021 for earthquakes M > 6.5
  • In the upper right corner is a series of 4 panels highlighting earthquake intensity for the 3 main events in this sequence.
    • The 3 panels on the right show the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) scale shaking intensity for the 7.2, 6.6, and 6.5 earthquakes. These are based on computer models that correlate MMI with distance from the earthquake.
    • The panel on the left is a larger scale map that shows the MMI contours for the 7.2 earthquake. I also plot the USGS “Did You Feel It?” results. These are data compiled from observations people made and reported to the USGS. Read more about the DYFI program here.
    • The plot in the bottom center-left shows both of these data: the USGS modeled intensities and the USGS DYFI intensities. Note how the intensity gets lesser with distance from the earthquake.
  • The lower right corner has two maps which are “Ground Failure” products from the USGS for this earthquake. Read more about the USGS ground failure products here. I explain these two products in greater detail below.
    • The map on the right shows the probability of (chance of) landslides to have been triggered by the M 7.2 earthquake shaking.
    • The map on the left shows the susceptibility for (chance for) liquefaction to have been generated by the M 7.2 earthquake shaking.
  • Above the Ground Failure maps is a larger scale view of the aftershocks from the Cape Mendocino Earthquake. Technically, many of these events are not aftershocks, but earthquakes on different faults than the M 7.2 source fault. These are earthquakes triggered by the stress changes following the 7.2 earthquake. The two second largest events (M 6.6 and 6.5) are triggered events on NW striking faults in the Gorda plate. More on these events in an upcoming paper. Stay tuned.


Shaking Intensity and Potential for Ground Failure

  • Below are a series of maps that show the shaking intensity and potential for landslides and liquefaction. These are all USGS data products.
  • There are many different ways in which a landslide can be triggered. The first order relations behind slope failure (landslides) is that the “resisting” forces that are preventing slope failure (e.g. the strength of the bedrock or soil) are overcome by the “driving” forces that are pushing this land downwards (e.g. gravity). The ratio of resisting forces to driving forces is called the Factor of Safety (FOS). We can write this ratio like this:

    FOS = Resisting Force / Driving Force

    When FOS > 1, the slope is stable and when FOS < 1, the slope fails and we get a landslide. The illustration below shows these relations. Note how the slope angle α can take part in this ratio (the steeper the slope, the greater impact of the mass of the slope can contribute to driving forces). The real world is more complicated than the simplified illustration below.


    Landslide ground shaking can change the Factor of Safety in several ways that might increase the driving force or decrease the resisting force. Keefer (1984) studied a global data set of earthquake triggered landslides and found that larger earthquakes trigger larger and more numerous landslides across a larger area than do smaller earthquakes. Earthquakes can cause landslides because the seismic waves can cause the driving force to increase (the earthquake motions can “push” the land downwards), leading to a landslide. In addition, ground shaking can change the strength of these earth materials (a form of resisting force) with a process called liquefaction.
    Sediment or soil strength is based upon the ability for sediment particles to push against each other without moving. This is a combination of friction and the forces exerted between these particles. This is loosely what we call the “angle of internal friction.” Liquefaction is a process by which pore pressure increases cause water to push out against the sediment particles so that they are no longer touching.
    An analogy that some may be familiar with relates to a visit to the beach. When one is walking on the wet sand near the shoreline, the sand may hold the weight of our body generally pretty well. However, if we stop and vibrate our feet back and forth, this causes pore pressure to increase and we sink into the sand as the sand liquefies. Or, at least our feet sink into the sand.
    Below is a diagram showing how an increase in pore pressure can push against the sediment particles so that they are not touching any more. This allows the particles to move around and this is why our feet sink in the sand in the analogy above. This is also what changes the strength of earth materials such that a landslide can be triggered.


    Below is a diagram based upon a publication designed to educate the public about landslides and the processes that trigger them (USGS, 2004). Additional background information about landslide types can be found in Highland et al. (2008). There was a variety of landslide types that can be observed surrounding the earthquake region. So, this illustration can help people when they observing the landscape response to the earthquake whether they are using aerial imagery, photos in newspaper or website articles, or videos on social media. Will you be able to locate a landslide scarp or the toe of a landslide? This figure shows a rotational landslide, one where the land rotates along a curvilinear failure surface.

  • Below is the liquefaction susceptibility and landslide probability map (Jessee et al., 2017; Zhu et al., 2017). Please head over to that report for more information about the USGS Ground Failure products (landslides and liquefaction). Basically, earthquakes shake the ground and this ground shaking can cause landslides. We can see that there is a high probability for landslides. This makes sense as the lower limit for earthquake triggered landslides is magnitude M 5.5 (from Keefer 1984).
  • I use the same color scheme that the USGS uses on their website. Note how the areas that are more likely to have experienced earthquake induced liquefaction are in the valleys. Learn more about how the USGS prepares these model results here.

The Cascadia subduction zone

  • Here is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone, modified from Nelson et al. (2006). The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. Sites where evidence of past earthquakes (paleoseismology) are denoted by white dots. Where there is also evidence for past CSZ tsunami, there are black dots. These paleoseismology sites are labeled (e.g. Humboldt Bay). Some submarine paleoseismology core sites are also shown as grey dots. The two main spreading ridges are not labeled, but the northern one is the Juan de Fuca ridge (where oceanic crust is formed for the Juan de Fuca plate) and the southern one is the Gorda rise (where the oceanic crust is formed for the Gorda plate).

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes.

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. We also can see how a subduction zone generates a tsunami. Atwater et al., 2005.

  • Here is an animation produced by the folks at Cal Tech following the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake. I have several posts about that earthquake here and here. One may learn more about this animation, as well as download this animation here.

1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake and Tsunami

  • Following the earthquake, there was lots of work done by local geologists, along with help from those visiting from out of the area. One of the projects included the measurement and modeling of the ground deformation related to the earthquake. The measurements consistend of a first order survey of benchmarks, along with Global Positioning System measurements at GPS monuments. The results from these analyses were presented in a U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-383 (Stein et al., 1993). Below is a map that shows a modeled estimate of the surface deformation associated with this earthquake.

  • Here is a figure from Oppenheimer et al. (1993) that shows the shaking intensity from this earthquake sequence. Below is a colorized version.



  • Simplified tectonic map in the vicinity of the Cape Mendocino earthquake sequence. Stars, epicenters of three largest earthquakes; contours, Modified Mercalli intensities (values, Roman numerals) of main shock; open circles, strong motion instrument sites (adjacent numbers give peak horizontal accelerations in g). Abbreviations FT Fortuna; F Ferndale; RD, Rio Dell; S, Scotia; P, Petrolia; H, Honeydew; MF, Mendocino fault; CSZ, seaward edge of Cascadia subduction zone; and SAF, San Andreas fault.

  • This map shows an alternate model of earthquake ground deformation (Oppenheimer et al, 1993).

  • Observed and predicted coseismic displacements for the Cape Mendocino main shock (epicenter located at star).

  • This is a figure that shows the tsunami recorded by tide gages in California, Hawaii, and Oregon (Oppenheimer et al., 1993)

  • Here is a map from Rollins and Stein (2010), showing their interpretations of different historic earthquakes in the region. This was published in response to the Januray 2010 Gorda plate earthquake. The faults are from Chaytor et al. (2004).

  • Tectonic configuration of the Gorda deformation zone and locations and source models for 1976–2010 M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes. Letters designate chronological order of earthquakes (Table 1 and Appendix A). Plate motion vectors relative to the Pacific Plate (gray arrows in main diagram) are from Wilson [1989], with Cande and Kent’s [1995] timescale correction.

  • This figure shows the fault plane and aftershocks used in their analysis of the 1992 earthquake sequence.

  • Source models for earthquakes 25 April 1992, Mw = 6.9, open circles are from Waldhauser and Schaff ’s [2008] earthquake locations for 25 April 1992 (1806 UTC) to 26 April 1992 (0741 UTC)

  • This figure shows the change in coulomb stress imparted by the M 7.1 earthquake onto different faults: (a) the CSZ and (b) the faults that were triggered to generate the two main aftershocks.

  • (a) Coulomb stress changes imparted by the 1992 Mw = 6.9 Cape Mendocino earthquake (J) to the Cascadia subduction zone. Calculation depth is 8 km. Open circles are Waldhauser and Schaff [2008] earthquake locations for 25 April 1992 to 2 May 1992, 0–15 km depth. Seismicity data were cut off at 15 km depth to prevent interference from aftershocks of K and L. Cross section A‐A′ includes seismicity between 40.24°N and 40.36°N. Cross section B‐B′ includes seismicity between 40.36°N and 40.48°N. (b) Coulomb stress changes imparted by the 1992 Mw = 6.9 earthquake (J) to Mw = 6.5 and Mw = 6.6 shocks the next day (K and L). Stress change is resolved on the average of the orientations of K and L (strike 127°/dip 90°/rake 180°). Calculation depth is 21.5 km. (c) Calculated Coulomb stress changes imparted by M ≥ 5.9 shocks in 1983, 1987, and 1992 (C, E, and J) to the epicenters of K and L. The series of three colored numbers represent stress changes imparted by C, E, and J, respectively.

  • Here is a plot of the seismograms from the NCEDC.

Below is an updated interpretive poster for this earthquake sequence that focuses on the mechanisms.

  • I include the plot of tide gage data from Oppenheimer et al. (1993). These data are not in digital format, but are preserved in paper format. I hope to get some funding to head back to the east coast and scan the paper records to digitize them.
  • Note that the color format for the seismicity is based on depth. There are lots of events in the North America plate (see the green dots on the eastern end of the plot. There are also lots of Gorda plate and Mendocino fault events (the deeper events on the western side of the plot).
  • Look at the different types of earthquakes. What can you conclude about this sequence?


    Here is the USGS website for all the earthquakes in this region from 1917-2017 with M ≥ 6.5.

  • 1922.01.31 13:17 M 7.3
  • 1923.01.22 09:04 M 6.9
  • 1934-07-06 22:48 M 6.7
  • 1941-02-09 09:44 M 6.8
  • 1949-03-24 20:56 M 6.5
  • 1954-11-25 11:16 M 6.8
  • 1954-12-21 19:56 M 6.6
  • 1980-11-08 10:27 M 7.2
  • 1984-09-10 03:14 M 6.7
  • 1984-09-10 03:14 M 6.6
  • 1991-07-13 02:50 M 6.9
  • 1991-08-17 22:17 M 7.0
  • 1992-04-25 18:06 M 7.2
  • 1992-04-26 07:41 M 6.5
  • 1992-04-26 11:18 M 6.6
  • 1994-09-01 15:15 M 7.0
  • 1995-02-19 04:03 M 6.6
  • 2005-06-15 02:50 M 7.2
  • 2005-06-17 06:21 M 6.6
  • 2010-01-10 00:27 M 6.5
  • 2014-03-10 05:18 M 6.8
  • 2016-12-08 14:49 M 6.5
  • This is the map used in the animation below. Earthquake epicenters are plotted (some with USGS moment tensors) for this region from 1917-2017 with M ≥ 6.5. I labeled the plates and shaded their general location in different colors.
  • I include some inset maps.
    • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004).
    • In the upper left corner is a map from Rollins and Stein (2010). They plot epicenters and fault lines involved in earthquakes between 1976 and 2010.



  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. Many of the earthquakes people are familiar with in the Mendocino triple junction region are either compressional or strike slip. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:
  • Compressional:
  • Extensional:
  • Here is a primer that helps people learn how to interpret focal mechanisms and moment tensors. Moment tensors are calculated differently from focal mechanisms, but the interpretation of their graphical solution is similar. This is from the USGS.

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:

References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Goldfinger, C., Nelson, C.H., Morey, A., Johnson, J.E., Gutierrez-Pastor, J., Eriksson, A.T., Karabanov, E., Patton, J., Gràcia, E., Enkin, R., Dallimore, A., Dunhill, G., and Vallier, T., 2012 a. Turbidite Event History: Methods and Implications for Holocene Paleoseismicity of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, USGS Professional Paper # 1661F. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, 184 pp.
  • McCrory, P.A., 2000, Upper plate contraction north of the migrating Mendocino triple junction, northern California: Implications for partitioning of strain: Tectonics, v. 19, p. 11441160.
  • McCrory, P. A., Blair, J. L., Oppenheimer, D. H., and Walter, S. R., 2006, Depth to the Juan de Fuca slab beneath the Cascadia subduction margin; a 3-D model for sorting earthquakes U. S. Geological Survey
  • Nelson, A.R., Kelsey, H.M., Witter, R.C., 2006. Great earthquakes of variable magnitude at the Cascadia subduction zone. Quaternary Research 65, 354-365.
  • Oppenheimer, D., Beroza, G., Carver, G., Dengler, L., Eaton, J., Gee, L., Gonzalez, F., Jayko, A., Ki., W.H., Lisowski, M., Magee, M., Marshall, G., Murray, M., McPherson, R., Romanowicz, B., Satake, K., Simpson, R., Somerille, P., Stein, R., and Valentine, D., The Cape Mendocino, California, Earthquakes of April, 1992: Subduction at the Triple Junction in Science, v. 261, no. 5120, p. 433-438.
  • Patton, J. R., Goldfinger, C., Morey, A. E., Romsos, C., Black, B., Djadjadihardja, Y., and Udrekh, 2013. Seismoturbidite record as preserved at core sites at the Cascadia and Sumatra–Andaman subduction zones, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 833-867, doi:10.5194/nhess-13-833-2013, 2013.
  • Plafker, G., 1972. Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and Chilean earthquake of 1960: Implications for arc tectonics in Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 77, p. 901-925.
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stein, R.S., Marshall, G.A., Murray, M.H., Balazs, E., Carver, G.A., Dunklin, T.A>, McLaughlin, R.J., Cyr, K., and Jayko, A., 1993. Permanent Ground Movement Associate with the 1992 M=7 Cape Mendocino, California, Earthquake: Implications for Damage to Infrastructure and Hazards to navigation, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-383.
  • Wang, K., Wells, R., Mazzotti, S., Hyndman, R. D., and Sagiya, T., 2003, A revised dislocation model of interseismic deformation of the Cascadia subduction zone Journal of Geophysical Research, B, Solid Earth and Planets v. 108, no. 1.

Earthquake Report: 1700 Cascadia subduction zone 317 year commemoration

Today (possibly tonight at about 9 PM) is the birthday of the last known Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) earthquake. There is some evidence that there have been more recent CSZ earthquakes (e.g. late 19th century in southern OR / northern CA), but they were not near full margin ruptures (where the entire fault, or most of it, slipped during the earthquake).
I have been posting material about the CSZ for the past couple of years here and below are some prior Anniversary posts, as well as Earthquake Reports sorted according to their region along the CSZ. Below I present some of the material included in those prior reports (to help bring it all together), but I have prepared a new map for today’s report as well.


On this evening, 317 years ago, the Cascadia subduction zone fault ruptured as a margin wide earthquake. I here commemorate this birthday with some figures that are in two USGS open source professional papers. The Atwater et al. (2005) paper discusses how we came to the conclusion that this last full margin earthquake happened on January 26, 1700 at about 9 PM (there may have been other large magnitude earthquakes in Cascadia in the 19th century). The Goldfinger et al. (2012) paper discusses how we have concluded that the records from terrestrial paleoseismology are correlable and how we think that the margin may have ruptured in the past (rupture patch sizes and timing). The reference list is extensive and this is but a tiny snapshot of what we have learned about Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes. Brian Atwater and his colleagues have updated the Orphan Tsunami and produced a second edition available here for download and here for hard copy purchase (I have a hard copy).

Here is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone, modified from Nelson et al. (2006). The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct northeastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. Sites where evidence of past earthquakes (paleoseismology) are denoted by white dots. Where there is also evidence for past CSZ tsunami, there are black dots. These paleoseismology sites are labeled (e.g. Humboldt Bay). Some submarine paleoseismology core sites are also shown as grey dots. The two main spreading ridges are not labeled, but the northern one is the Juan de Fuca ridge (where oceanic crust is formed for the Juan de Fuca plate) and the southern one is the Gorda rise (where the oceanic crust is formed for the Gorda plate).


Today I prepared this new map showing the results of shakemap scenario model prepared by the USGS. I prepared this map using data that can be downloaded from the USGS website here. Shakemaps show what we think might happen during an earthquake, specifically showing how strongly the ground might shake. There are different measures of this, which include Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA), Peak Ground Velocity (PGV), and Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI). More background information about the shakemap program at the USGS can be found here. One thing that all of these measures share is that they show that there is a diminishing of ground shaking with distance from the earthquake. This means that the further from the earthquake, the less strongly the shaking will be felt. This can be seen on the maps below. The USGS prepares shakemaps for all earthquakes with sufficiently large magnitudes (i.e. we don’t need shakemaps for earthquakes of magnitude M = 1.5). An archive of these USGS shakemaps can be found here. All the scenario USGS shakemaps can be found here.
I chose to use the MMI representation of ground shaking because it is most easily comparable for people to understand. This is because MMI scale is designed based upon relations between ground shaking intensity and observations that people are able to make (e.g. how strongly they felt the earthquake, how much objects in their residences or places of business responded, how much buildings were damaged, etc.).
The MMI ground motion model is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here.


Here is the USGS version of this map. The outline of the fault that was used to generate the ground motions that these maps are based upon is outlined in black.


I prepared an end of the year summary for earthquakes along the CSZ. Below is my map from this Earthquake Report.

  • Here is the map where I show the epicenters as circles with colors designating the age. I also plot the USGS moment tensors for each earthquake, with arrows showing the sense of motion for each earthquake.
  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend in the lower left corner of the map. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • In some cases, I am able to interpret the sense of motion for strike-slip earthquakes. In other cases, I do not know enough to be able to make this interpretation (so I plot both solutions).

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) and regional tectonic plate boundary faults. This is modified from several sources (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004)
  • Below the CSZ map is an illustration modified from Plafker (1972). This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. Today’s earthquake did not occur along the CSZ, so did not produce crustal deformation like this. However, it is useful to know this when studying the CSZ.
  • To the lower right of the Cascadia map and cross section is a map showing the latest version of the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF). Let it be known that this is not really a forecast, and this name was poorly chosen. People cannot forecast earthquakes. However, it is still useful. The faults are colored vs. their likelihood of rupturing. More can be found about UCERF here. Note that the San Andreas fault, and her two sister faults (Maacama and Bartlett Springs), are orange-red.
  • To the upper right of the Cascadia map and cross section is a map showing the shaking intensities based upon the USGS Shakemap model. Earthquake Scenarios describe the expected ground motions and effects of specific hypothetical large earthquakes. The color scale is the same as found on many of my #EarthquakeReport interpretive posters, the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI). The latest version of this map is here.
  • In the upper right corner I include generalized fault map of northern California from Wallace (1990).
  • To the left of the Wallace (1990) map is a figure that shows the evolution of the San Andreas fault system since 30 million years ago (Ma). This is a figure from the USGS here.
  • In the lower right corner I include the Earthquake Shaking Potential map from the state of California. This is a probabilistic seismic hazard map, basically a map that shows the likelihood that there will be shaking of a given amount over a period of time. More can be found from the California Geological Survey here. I place a yellow star in the approximate location of today’s earthquake.


This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. We also can see how a subduction zone generates a tsunami. Atwater et al., 2005.


Here is a version of the CSZ cross section alone (Plafker, 1972).


Here is an animation produced by the folks at Cal Tech following the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake. I have several posts about that earthquake here and here. One may learn more about this animation, as well as download this animation here.

Here is a graphic showing the sediment-stratigraphic evidence of earthquakes in Cascadia. Atwater et al., 2005. There are 3 panels on the left, showing times of (1) prior to earthquake, (2) several years following the earthquake, and (3) centuries after the earthquake. Before the earthquake, the ground is sufficiently above sea level that trees can grow without fear of being inundated with salt water. During the earthquake, the ground subsides (lowers) so that the area is now inundated during high tides. The salt water kills the trees and other plants. Tidal sediment (like mud) starts to be deposited above the pre-earthquake ground surface. This sediment has organisms within it that reflect the tidal environment. Eventually, the sediment builds up and the crust deforms interseismically until the ground surface is again above sea level. Now plants that can survive in this environment start growing again. There are stumps and tree snags that were rooted in the pre-earthquake soil that can be used to estimate the age of the earthquake using radiocarbon age determinations. The tree snags form “ghost forests.


Here is a photo of the ghost forest, created from coseismic subsidence during the Jan. 26, 1700 Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. Atwater et al., 2005.


Here is a photo I took in Alaska, where there was a subduction zone earthquake in 1964. These tree snags were living trees prior to the earthquake and remain to remind us of the earthquake hazards along subduction zones.


This shows how a tsunami deposit may be preserved in the sediment stratigraphy following a subduction zone earthquake, like in Cascadia. Atwater et al., 2005. If there is a source of sediment to be transported by a tsunami, it will come along for the ride and possibly be deposited upon the pre-earthquake ground surface. Following the earthquake, tidal sediment is deposited above the tsunami transported sediment. Sometimes plants that were growing prior to the earthquake get entombed within the tsunami deposit.


The NOAA/NWS/Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has updated their animation of the simulation of the 1700 “Orphan Tsunami.”
Source: Nathan C. Becker, Ph.D. nathan.becker at noaa.gov

Below are some links and embedded videos.

  • Here is the yt link for the embedded video below.
  • Here is the mp4 link for the embedded video below. (2160p 145 mb mp4)
  • Here is the mp4 link for the embedded video below. (1080p 145 mb mp4)

  • Here is the text associated with this animation:

    Just before midnight on January 27, 1700 a tsunami struck the coasts of Japan without warning since no one in Japan felt the earthquake that must have caused it. Nearly 300 years later scientists and historians in Japan and the United States solved the mystery of what caused this “orphan tsunami” through careful analysis of historical records in Japan as well as oral histories of Native Americans, sediment deposits, and ghost forests of drowned trees in the Pacific Northwest of North America, a region also known as Cascadia. They learned that this geologically active region, the Cascadia Subduction Zone, not only hosts erupting volcanoes but also produces megathrust earthquakes capable of generating devastating, ocean-crossing tsunamis. By comparing the tree rings of dead trees with those still living they could tell when the last of these great earthquakes struck the region. The trees all died in the winter of 1699-1700 when the coasts of northern California, Oregon, and Washington suddenly dropped 1-2 m (3-6 ft.), flooding them with seawater. That much motion over such a large area requires a very large earthquake to explain it—perhaps as large as 9.2 magnitude, comparable to the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964. Such an earthquake would have ruptured the earth along the entire length of the 1000 km (600 mi) -long fault of the Cascadia Subduction Zone and severe shaking could have lasted for 5 minutes or longer. Its tsunami would cross the Pacific Ocean and reach Japan in about 9 hours, so the earthquake must have occurred around 9 o’clock at night in Cascadia on January 26, 1700 (05:00 January 27 UTC).

    The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) can create an animation of a historical tsunami like this one using the same too that they use for determining tsunami hazard in real time for any tsunami today: the Real-Time Forecasting of Tsunamis (RIFT) forecast model. The RIFT model takes earthquake information as input and calculates how the waves move through the world’s oceans, predicting their speed, wavelength, and amplitude. This animation shows these values through the simulated motion of the waves and as they race around the globe one can also see the distance between successive wave crests (wavelength) as well as their height (half-amplitude) indicated by their color. More importantly, the model also shows what happens when these tsunami waves strike land, the very information that PTWC needs to issue tsunami hazard guidance for impacted coastlines. From the beginning the animation shows all coastlines covered by colored points. These are initially a blue color like the undisturbed ocean to indicate normal sea level, but as the tsunami waves reach them they will change color to represent the height of the waves coming ashore, and often these values are higher than they were in the deeper waters offshore. The color scheme is based on PTWC’s warning criteria, with blue-to-green representing no hazard (less than 30 cm or ~1 ft.), yellow-to-orange indicating low hazard with a stay-off-the-beach recommendation (30 to 100 cm or ~1 to 3 ft.), light red-to-bright red indicating significant hazard requiring evacuation (1 to 3 m or ~3 to 10 ft.), and dark red indicating a severe hazard possibly requiring a second-tier evacuation (greater than 3 m or ~10 ft.).

    Toward the end of this simulated 24-hours of activity the wave animation will transition to the “energy map” of a mathematical surface representing the maximum rise in sea-level on the open ocean caused by the tsunami, a pattern that indicates that the kinetic energy of the tsunami was not distributed evenly across the oceans but instead forms a highly directional “beam” such that the tsunami was far more severe in the middle of the “beam” of energy than on its sides. This pattern also generally correlates to the coastal impacts; note how those coastlines directly in the “beam” have a much higher impact than those to either side of it.

    Offshore, Goldfinger and others (from the 1960’s into the 21st Century, see references in Goldfinger et al., 2012) collected cores in the deep sea. These cores contain submarine landslide deposits (called turbidites). These turbidites are thought to have been deposited as a result of strong ground shaking from large magnitude earthquakes. Goldfinger et al. (2012) compile their research in the USGS professional paper. This map shows where the cores are located.


    Here is an example of how these “seismoturbidites” have been correlated. The correlations are the basis for the interpretation that these submarine landslides were triggered by Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes. This correlation figure demonstrates how well these turbidites have been correlated. Goldfinger et al., 2012.


    This map shows the various possible prehistoric earthquake rupture regions (patches) for the past 10,000 years. Goldfinger et al., 2012. These rupture scenarios have been adopted by the USGS hazards team that determines the seismic hazards for the USA.


    Here is an update of this plot given new correlations from recent work (Goldfinger et al., 2016).


    Here is a plot showing the earthquakes in a linear timescale.


    I combined the plot above into another figure that includes all the recurrence intervals and segment lengths in a single figure. This is modified from Goldfinger et al. (2012).

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/shakemap/global/shake/casc9.0_expanded_peak_se/