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Seismic images and subsurface structures of northeastern Edwards Air Force Base, Kern County, California

August 22, 2023

We used multi-component seismic data (including two-dimensional images of compressional-wave velocity [vP], shear-wave velocity [vS], the ratio of compressional-wave velocity to shear-wave velocity [vP/vS ratio], Poisson’s ratio [μ], and seismic reflections) along a transect across northeastern Edwards Air Force Base to investigate the upper few hundred meters of the subsurface. The shallow subsurface there is characterized by unconsolidated sediments (vP of less than 2,500 meters per second [m/s]; vS of less than 1,500 m/s) in the upper 40 meters (m), underlain by weathered granitic basement rock (vP of 2,500–4,000 m/s; vS of 1,500–2,700 m/s) to about 100 m depth and unweathered granitic basement rock (vP of 4,000–6,000 m/s; vS of 2,700–4,000 m/s). The depth to basement rock varies laterally along the transect by as many as tens of meters. The top of groundwater, as indicated by both the 1,500-m/s vP contour and measurements in five wells along the transect, is located 8–30 m below the surface. In places, the top of groundwater is vertically offset over short lateral distances, likely the result of fault barriers. Faults mapped at the surface along the northeastern part of the transect correlate with multiple seismic indicators of faulting at the same locations. These same indicators show evidence for faulting in several other places along the transect beneath the alluvium. A major zone of faulting is apparent near the center of the seismic profile and is characterized by offsets in the top of groundwater; diffractions on the reflection image; a near-vertical zone of low vS; a corresponding near-vertical, shallow-depth zone of high vP relative to adjacent rocks (indicating high saturation); a near-vertical zone of high vP/vS ratios; and a near-vertical zone of high Poisson’s ratios (also indicating saturation). Many of these anomalies extend at least 400 m deep, reaching into granitic basement rock and indicating that the fault zone is water-saturated to those depths. There is likely vertical flow of contaminants along these fault zones, which are apparently barriers to the lateral flow of groundwater. The major central fault zone marks a boundary beyond which contaminant flow is apparently impeded. Along the southwestern part of the transect, there are also areas with similar indicators of faulting, but these appear to be smaller fault zones.

Publication Year 2023
Title Seismic images and subsurface structures of northeastern Edwards Air Force Base, Kern County, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20231018
Authors Rufus D. Catchings, Mark R. Goldman, Joanne H. Chan, Robert R. Sickler, Coyn J. Criley
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2023-1018
Index ID ofr20231018
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center