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Large-scale splay faults on a strike-slip fault system: The Yakima Folds, Washington State

November 3, 2012

The Yakima Folds (YF) comprise anticlines above reverse faults cutting flows of the Miocene Columbia River Basalt Group of central Washington State. The YF are bisected by the ~1100-km-long Olympic-Wallowa Lineament (OWL), which is an alignment of topographic features including known faults. There is considerable debate about the origin and earthquake potential of both the YF and OWL, which lie near six major dams and a large nuclear waste storage site. Here I show that the trends of the faults forming the YF relative to the OWL match remarkably well the trends of the principal stress directions at the end of a vertical strike-slip fault. This comparison and the termination of some YF against the OWL are consistent with the YF initially forming as splay faults caused by an along-strike decrease in the amount of strike-slip on the OWL. The hypothesis is that the YF faults initially developed as splay faults in the early to mid Miocene under NNW-oriented principal compressive stress, but the anticlines subsequently grew with thrust motion after the principal compressive stress direction rotated to N-S or NNE after the mid-Miocene. A seismic profile across one of the YF anticlines shows folding at about 7 km depth, indicating deformation of sub-basalt strata. The seismic profile and the hypothesized relationship between the YF and the OWL suggest that the structures are connected in the middle or lower crust, and that the faults forming the YF are large-scale splay faults associated with a major strike-slip fault system.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2012
Title Large-scale splay faults on a strike-slip fault system: The Yakima Folds, Washington State
DOI 10.1029/2012GC004405
Authors Thomas L. Pratt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Series Number
Index ID 70188384
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center