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Coseismic surface displacement in the 2019 ridgecrest earthquakes: Comparison of field measurements and optical image correlation results

January 21, 2021

A fundamental topic in earthquake studies is understanding the extent to which fault rupture at the surface is localized on primary fault strands as opposed to distributed tens to hundreds of meters away from primary ruptures through off‐fault deformation (OFD) via a combination of discrete secondary faulting and bulk deformation. The 2019 Ridgecrest, CA Mw6.4 and Mw7.1 earthquakes provide an opportunity to explore this problem via comparison of published field‐based and mostly on‐fault offset measurements, with new lateral displacement measurements made over length scales of hundreds of meters across the primary rupture using WorldView satellite images collected before and after the earthquakes. A mean fit to the field observations underestimates net slip (pixel‐correlation results) by an average of 0.4 m along the Mw6.4 rupture (∼41% of net left‐lateral displacement) and 0.7 m along the Mw7.1 rupture (∼65% of net right‐lateral displacement). We attribute these differences to substantial OFD along the lengths of the Mw6.4 (∼59%) and Mw7.1 (∼35%) ruptures. A maximum fit to the field observations provides an improved match to the pixel correlation results (difference of 0.1–0.2 m or ∼76%–98% of net displacement). OFD may in part depend on displacement magnitude, where locations along the rupture with smaller displacements (<2 m) are characterized by a greater percentage of OFD. Furthermore, OFD increases with rupture zone width, especially at the scale of individual rupture strands (hundreds of meters). These findings contribute to a growing understanding of the important role of OFD in accommodating deformation near the surface.