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Centimeter-scale surface deformation caused by the 2011 Mineral, Virginia, earthquake sequence at the Carter farm site—Subsidiary structures with a quaternary history

August 25, 2016

Centimeter-scale ground-surface deformation was produced by the August 23, 2011, magnitude (M) 5.8 earthquake that occurred in Mineral, Virginia. Ground-surface deformation also resulted from the earthquake aftershock sequence. This deformation occurred along a linear northeast-trend near Pendleton, Virginia. It is approximately 10 kilometers (km) northeast of the M5.8 epicenter and near the northeastern periphery of the epicentral area as defined by aftershocks. The ground-surface deformation extends over a distance of approximately 1.4 km and consists of parallel, small-scale (a few centimeters (cm) in amplitude) linear ridges and swales. Individual ridge and swale features are discontinuous and vary in length across a zone that ranges from about 20 meters (m) to less than 5 m in width. At one location, three fence posts and adjoining rails were vertically misaligned. Approximately 5 cm of uplift on one post provides a maximum estimate of vertical change from pre-earthquake conditions along the ridge and swale features. There was no change in the alignment of fence posts, indicating that deformation was entirely vertical. A broad monoclinal flexure with approximately 1 m of relief was identified by transit survey across surface deformation at the Carter farm site. There, surface deformation overlies the Carter farm fault, which is a zone of brittle faulting and fracturing along quartz veins, striking N40°E and dipping approximately 75°SE. Brecciation and shearing along this fault is interpreted as Quaternary in age because it disrupts the modern B-soil horizon. However, deformation is confined to saprolitized schist of the Ordovician Quantico Formation and the lowermost portion of overlying residuum, and is absent in the uppermost residuum and colluvial layer at the ground surface. Because there is a lack of surface shearing and very low relief, landslide processes were not a causative mechanism for the surface deformation. Two possible tectonic models and one non-tectonic model are considered: (1) tectonic, monoclinal flexuring along the Carter farm fault, probably aseismic, (2) tectonic, monoclinal flexuring related to a shallow (1–3 km) cluster of aftershocks (M2 to M3) that occurred approximately 1 to 1.5 km to the east of Carter farm, and (3) non-tectonic, differential response to seismic shaking between more-rigid quartz veins and soft residuum-saprolite under vertical motions that were created by Rayleigh surface waves radiating away from the August 23, 2011, hypocenter and propagating along strike of the Carter farm fault. These processes are not considered mutually exclusive, and all three support brittle deformation on the Carter farm fault during the Quaternary. In addition, abandoned stream valleys and active stream piracy are consistent with long-term uplift in vicinity of the Carter farm fault.

Publication Year 2016
Title Centimeter-scale surface deformation caused by the 2011 Mineral, Virginia, earthquake sequence at the Carter farm site—Subsidiary structures with a quaternary history
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161134
Authors Richard W. Harrison, J. Stephen Schindler, Milan J. Pavich, J. Wright Horton, Mark W. Carter
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2016-1134
Index ID ofr20161134
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center