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Geophysical constraints on the crustal architecture of the transtensional Warm Springs Valley fault zone, northern Walker Lane, western Nevada, USA

October 1, 2021

The Walker Lane is a zone of distributed transtension where normal faults are overprinted by strike-slip motion. We use two newly-acquired high-resolution seismic reflection profiles and a reprocessed Consortium for Continental Reflection Profiling (COCORP) deep crustal reflection profile to assess the subsurface geometry of the Holocene-active, transtensional Warm Springs Valley fault zone (WSVFZ) near Reno, Nevada, USA. Our multi-scale observations extend to 12 km depth and suggest that the WSVFZ is more complex in the subsurface than implied by late Pleistocene surface fault traces. Two ~4-km-long high-resolution profiles image to a depth of ~2 km and reveal moderately dipping reflections and truncations, some of which project to mapped scarps formed in late Pleistocene surfaces. The shallow lines are co-located with COCORP profile NV 08 along ~40° N latitude. Re-analysis of the COCORP data reveals previously unidentified coherent reflections to a depth of ~12 km and a previously mapped ~30 west-dipping fault at 8-12 km. From these seismic profiles, the WSVFZ is not a simple, sub-vertical fault zone extending through the entire seismogenic crust. Instead, the reflections are consistent with a zone of steep- and moderately-dipping faults that simplify and steepen with depth before intersecting a mid-crustal, low angle (~25-30°) fault. The complex fault geometry of the WSVFZ implies that crustal shear is accommodated by a mix of dipping and subvertical faults in the transtensional northern Walker Lane. If so, transtensional fault zones may present challenges to paleoseismic and geodetic studies and require careful treatment when included in seismic hazard analyses.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Geophysical constraints on the crustal architecture of the transtensional Warm Springs Valley fault zone, northern Walker Lane, western Nevada, USA
DOI 10.1029/2020JB020757
Authors Richard W. Briggs, William J. Stephenson, J.H. McBride, Jackson K. Odum, Nadine G. Reitman, Ryan D. Gold
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title JGR Solid Earth
Index ID 70236807
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center