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Quaternary reactivation of the Kern Canyon fault system, southern Sierra Nevada, California

Nadin, Elisabeth S. and Saleeby, Jason B. (2010) Quaternary reactivation of the Kern Canyon fault system, southern Sierra Nevada, California. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 122 (9-10). pp. 1671-1685. ISSN 0016-7606.

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The Kern Canyon fault, the longest fault in the southern Sierra Nevada, is an active structure and has been reactivated at discrete times over the past 100 m.y. in response to changing lithospheric stresses. After initiation as a Cretaceous transpressional structure, the Kern Canyon fault transitioned into a dextral strike-slip shear zone that remained active as it was exhumed into the brittle regime during regional Late Cretaceous uplift of the Sierra Nevada batholith. The Kern Canyon fault was reactivated during Miocene regional extension as part of a transfer zone between two differentially extending domains in the southern Sierra Nevada. Subsequent normal displacement along the fault began in Pliocene time. New evidence for fault activity, which continued into late Quaternary time, includes its current geomorphic expression as a series of meters-high, west-side-up scarps that crop out discontinuously along the fault's 130-km length. Relocated focal mechanisms of modern earthquakes confirm ongoing normal faulting, and geodetic measurements suggest that the Sierra Nevada is uplifting relative to the adjacent valleys. This evidence for recent activity overturns a long-held view that the Kern Canyon fault has been inactive for more than 3.5 m.y. Its reactivation indicates that deformation repeatedly localized along a preexisting crustal weakness, a Cretaceous shear zone. We propose that a system of interrelated normal faults, including the Kern Canyon fault, is responding to mantle lithosphere removal beneath the southern Sierra Nevada region. The location of the active Kern Canyon fault within the Sierra Nevada–Great Valley microplate indicates that deformation is occurring within the microplate.

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Additional Information:© 2010 Geological Society of America. Manuscript received 11 January 2009; revised manuscript received 11 December 2009 manuscript accepted 15 December 2009. E.N. thanks Ronn Rose of USACE, David Simpson of URS Corporation, and William Page for the helicopter survey. We thank Carl Tape for seismic data analysis, Nathan Niemi and Ken Hudnut for guidance with GPS data, and Joann Stock for comments. We acknowledge the Southern California Integrated GPS Network and its sponsors, the W.M. Keck Foundation, NASA, National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Geological Survey, and Southern California Earthquake Center, for providing data used in this study. Reviews by David Ferrill, David Peacock, and Erdin Bozkurt improved the content and clarity of this contribution. This study was supported by NSF grant EAR-0230383.
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Issue or Number:9-10
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20100804-110719866
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:19273
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:04 Aug 2010 18:12
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 01:54

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