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Surface slip during large Owens Valley earthquakes

January 8, 2016

The 1872 Owens Valley earthquake is the third largest known historical earthquake in California. Relatively sparse field data and a complex rupture trace, however, inhibited attempts to fully resolve the slip distribution and reconcile the total moment release. We present a new, comprehensive record of surface slip based on lidar and field investigation, documenting 162 new measurements of laterally and vertically displaced landforms for 1872 and prehistoric Owens Valley earthquakes. Our lidar analysis uses a newly developed analytical tool to measure fault slip based on cross‐correlation of sublinear topographic features and to produce a uniquely shaped probability density function (PDF) for each measurement. Stacking PDFs along strike to form cumulative offset probability distribution plots (COPDs) highlights common values corresponding to single and multiple‐event displacements. Lateral offsets for 1872 vary systematically from ∼1.0 to 6.0 m and average 3.3 ± 1.1 m (2σ). Vertical offsets are predominantly east‐down between ∼0.1 and 2.4 m, with a mean of 0.8 ± 0.5 m. The average lateral‐to‐vertical ratio compiled at specific sites is ∼6:1. Summing displacements across subparallel, overlapping rupture traces implies a maximum of 7–11 m and net average of 4.4 ± 1.5 m, corresponding to a geologic Mw ∼7.5 for the 1872 event. We attribute progressively higher‐offset lateral COPD peaks at 7.1 ± 2.0 m, 12.8 ± 1.5 m, and 16.6 ± 1.4 m to three earlier large surface ruptures. Evaluating cumulative displacements in context with previously dated landforms in Owens Valley suggests relatively modest rates of fault slip, averaging between ∼0.6 and 1.6 mm/yr (1σ) over the late Quaternary.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Surface slip during large Owens Valley earthquakes
DOI 10.1002/2015GC006033
Authors Elizabeth Haddon, Colin Amos, Olaf Zielke, Angela S. Jayko, Roland Burgmann
Publication Type Book
Publication Subtype
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70190718
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center