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Rates and patterns of surface deformation from laser scanning following the South Napa earthquake, California

November 16, 2015

The A.D. 2014 M6.0 South Napa earthquake, despite its moderate magnitude, caused significant damage to the Napa Valley in northern California (USA). Surface rupture occurred along several mapped and unmapped faults. Field observations following the earthquake indicated that the magnitude of postseismic surface slip was likely to approach or exceed the maximum coseismic surface slip and as such presented ongoing hazard to infrastructure. Using a laser scanner, we monitored postseismic deformation in three dimensions through time along 0.5 km of the main surface rupture. A key component of this study is the demonstration of proper alignment of repeat surveys using point cloud–based methods that minimize error imposed by both local survey errors and global navigation satellite system georeferencing errors. Using solid modeling of natural and cultural features, we quantify dextral postseismic displacement at several hundred points near the main fault trace. We also quantify total dextral displacement of initially straight cultural features. Total dextral displacement from both coseismic displacement and the first 2.5 d of postseismic displacement ranges from 0.22 to 0.29 m. This range increased to 0.33–0.42 m at 59 d post-earthquake. Furthermore, we estimate up to 0.15 m of vertical deformation during the first 2.5 d post-earthquake, which then increased by ∼0.02 m at 59 d post-earthquake. This vertical deformation is not expressed as a distinct step or scarp at the fault trace but rather as a broad up-to-the-west zone of increasing elevation change spanning the fault trace over several tens of meters, challenging common notions about fault scarp development in strike-slip systems. Integrating these analyses provides three-dimensional mapping of surface deformation and identifies spatial variability in slip along the main fault trace that we attribute to distributed slip via subtle block rotation. These results indicate the benefits of laser scanner surveys along active faults and demonstrate that fine-scale variability in fault slip has been missed by traditional earthquake response methods.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Rates and patterns of surface deformation from laser scanning following the South Napa earthquake, California
DOI 10.1130/GES01189.1
Authors Stephen B. DeLong, James J. Lienkaemper, Alexandra J. Pickering, Nikita N. Avdievitch
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geosphere
Index ID 70159632
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center

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