Late Quaternary slip histories and geochronology within the southern San Andreas Fault system




Gold, Peter Owen

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Geologic slip histories measure the frequency, rate and magnitude of past displacement along active faults. Projected into the near future, they inform potential seismic hazard over human time scales. In this dissertation I describe the results of four projects focused on developing slip histories for active faults within the complex southern San Andreas Fault plate boundary system in southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico. Slip is accommodated through this densely populated region by multiple concurrently active faults. For the Banning Fault, a primary subsidiary strand of the southern San Andreas Fault, I report the first, and only, constraint on recent geologic slip. The ~4-5 mm/a mid-Holocene slip rate shows that the Banning Fault is less dominant than previously thought, significantly clarifying how slip is partitioned between three primary structures along the section of the San Andreas Fault that is most likely to host the next major earthquake. In northern Baja California, I report the first quantitatively constrained slip history for the Agua Blanca Fault, one of two primary structures transferring dextral plate motion from the Gulf of California rift to faults that parallel the Pacific coast. I report rates from three sites along the Agua Blanca Fault that indicate time-invariant slip of 2.8 +0.8/-0.6 mm/a since ~65.1 ka, 3.0 +1.4/-0.8 mm/a since ~21.8 ka, 3.4 +0.8/-0.6 mm/a since ~11.7 ka, and 3.0 +3.0/-1.5 mm/a since ~1.6 ka. I also report the timing of 7 Holocene earthquakes that suggest maximum earthquake recurrence of ~1000 years, and I report geologic evidence of ~2.5 m of slip in the past two earthquakes, which suggests that the Agua Blanca Fault is capable of accommodating >M7 surface rupturing earthquakes. This new, comprehensive slip history significantly clarifies both on- and off-shore slip partitioning within this part of the Pacific-North American plate boundary. Finally, slip rate and earthquake timing measurements critically depend on geochronologic dating of offset geologic landforms that record past displacement. To evaluate the variability between dates measured using different methods, I report a critical comparison of independent geochronometers that informs best dating practices and demonstrates that discordance often quantifies geomorphic process.


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