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Offshore shallow structure and sediment distribution, Point Sur to Point Arguello, central California

July 15, 2019

This publication consists of three map sheets that display shallow geologic structure, along with sediment distribution and thickness, for an about 225-km-long offshore section of the central California coast between Point Sur and Point Arguello. Each map sheet includes three maps, at scales of either 1:150,000 or 1:200,000, as well as a set of figures that contain representative high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles. The maps and seismic-reflection surveys cover most of the continental shelf in this region. In addition, the maps show the locations of the shelf break and the 3-nautical-mile limit of California’s State Waters.

The seismic-reflection data, which are the primary dataset used to develop the maps, were collected to support the California Seafloor Mapping Program and U.S. Geological Survey Offshore Geologic Hazards projects. In addition to the three map sheets, this publication includes geographic information system data files of interpreted faults, folds, sediment thicknesses, and depths-to-base of sediment. The faults and folds shown on the maps have been locally simplified as appropriate for the map scales.

The right-lateral San Gregorio–Hosgri Fault (SGHF) is the most significant structure in the map area. On a regional scale, the SGHF is part of a 400-km-long, right-lateral fault system that extends northwestward from Point Arguello to the area offshore of San Francisco, where it merges with the San Andreas Fault. From north to south in this part of central California, the SGHF lies offshore between the south flank of Point Sur and the north flank of Point Piedras Blancas, then comes onshore at Point Piedras Blancas, before heading offshore again between the south flank of Point Piedras Blancas and Point Arguello. Cumulative fault offset along the SGHF is as much as 150 to 160 km, decreasing to the south by transferring slip on to northwest-striking faults that converge with the SGHF both onland and offshore from the east. In the map area, the offshore-converging faults include the Los Osos Fault, the Shoreline–Point Buchon Fault, the Casmalia Fault, and the Lions Head Fault.

Quaternary sediments and bedrock underlie the shelf. On the seismic-reflection profiles, we divide Quaternary shelf sediments into two units. Characterizing the younger, upper unit is a focus of this publication. This unit is inferred to have been deposited on the shelf in the last about 21,000 years during the sea-level rise that followed the last major lowstand and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). This upper unit overlies a transgressive surface of erosion, a commonly angular, wave-cut unconformity, and is generally characterized by low-amplitude, continuous to moderately continuous, diffuse, subparallel, generally flat reflections. Maps in this publication show both the thickness of this upper sediment unit and the depth to the base of the sediment unit. Within the map region, 11 different “domains” of post-LGM shelf sediment are delineated on the basis of sediment thickness and coastal geomorphology. Maximum sediment thickness is in the southern part of the region, offshore of the mouths of the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria Rivers. Minimum sediment thickness is found offshore of prominent rocky points, including Point Buchon and Piedras Blancas. Mean sediment thickness for the entire shelf in the map area between Point Sur and Point Arguello is 12.2 m, and total sediment volume is 24.7 million cubic meters.

Publication Year 2019
Title Offshore shallow structure and sediment distribution, Point Sur to Point Arguello, central California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181158
Authors Samuel Y. Johnson, Stephen R. Hartwell, Janet T. Watt, Jeffrey W. Beeson, Peter Dartnell
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2018-1158
Index ID ofr20181158
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center