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Coseismic deformation of the Wrights tunnel during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake: A key to understanding 1906 fault slip and 1989 surface ruptures in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains, California

January 1, 1997

The Wrights tunnel is an abandoned railroad tunnel that crosses the San Andreas fault in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains in the vicinity of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The tunnel was damaged and deformed during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and a plot showing postearthquake measurements made in the tunnel is given by Lawson [1908]. The amount of offset shown on this plot (1.5 m) has been used in several studies as being representative of the amount of fault offset along this segment of the San Andreas fault in 1906. Our historical research shows that different observers reported different amounts of fault offset in the tunnel and that the 1.5 m given on the plot is not a surveyed measurement. In addition, the plot of the tunnel has been interpreted in several previous studies as evidence of a broad (1.5 km) zone of faulting beneath Summit Ridge. Our analysis shows that this plot need not indicate a broad zone of deformation. Our historical research and modeling of the tunnel measurements indicate that faulting was confined to a zone less than 400 m wide and that 60-85% of the coseismic slip occurred across a single fault plane. There is no evidence for offset across a second shear zone beneath Summit Ridge in 1906. This implies that surface fractures reported on Summit Ridge in 1906 were not associated with significant deformation of the tunnel, implying that they were shallow, surficial features. By analogy, the very similar fractures that occurred on Summit Ridge in 1989 were also probably the result of shallow gravitational, rather than deep-seated tectonic, processes. Our modeling also indicates that total coseismic, near-surface slip across the San Andreas fault zone in the Wrights tunnel in 1906 was at least 1.7-1.8 m.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1997
Title Coseismic deformation of the Wrights tunnel during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake: A key to understanding 1906 fault slip and 1989 surface ruptures in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains, California
DOI
Authors C. S. Prentice, D.J. Ponti
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
Series Number
Index ID 70019232
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization