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Published 2007 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

A comparison between the transpressional plate boundaries of South Island, New Zealand, and Southern California, USA: the Alpine and San Andreas fault systems


There are clear similarities in structure and tectonics between the Alpine Fault system (AF) of New Zealand's South Island and the San Andreas Fault system (SAF) of southern California, USA. Both systems are transpressional, with similar right slip and convergence rates, similar onset ages (for the current traces), and similar total offsets. There are also notable differences, including the dips of the faults and their plate-tectonic histories. The crustal structure surrounding the AF and SAF was investigated with active and passive seismic sources along transects known as South Island Geophysical Transect (SIGHT) and Los Angeles Region Seismic Experiment (LARSE), respectively. Along the SIGHT transects, the AF appears to dip moderately southeastward (~50 deg.), toward the Pacific plate (PAC), but along the LARSE transects, the SAF dips vertically to steeply northeastward toward the North American plate (NAM). Away from the LARSE transects, the dip of the SAF changes significantly. In both locations, a midcrustal decollement is observed that connects the plate-boundary fault to thrust faults farther south in the PAC. This decollement allows upper crust to escape collision laterally and vertically, but forces the lower crust to form crustal roots, reaching maximum depths of 44 km (South Island) and 36 km (southern California). In both locations, upper-mantle bodies of high P velocity are observed extending from near the Moho to more than 200-km depth. These bodies appear to be confined to the PAC and to represent oblique downwelling of PAC mantle lithosphere along the plate boundaries.

Additional Information

Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union. This paper benefited greatly from discussions with many people, although the interpretations we present are not necessarily consensus interpretations. These persons include (alphabetically) Peter Bird, Glenn Biasi, Paul Davis, Kevin Furlong, Greg Houseman, Gene Humphreys, Ray Ingersoll, Craig Jones, Art Lachenbruch, Vicki Langenheim, Pat McCrory, Craig Nicholson, Mike Oskin, Tom Parsons, Fred Pollitz, Bob Powell, Dan Scheirer, Tim Stern, Joann Stock, Bill Stuart, Colin Williams, Charley Wilson, Doug Wilson, Bob Yeats, and George Zandt. We thank John Hole, Simon Cox, Fred Davey, Fred Pollitz, and Donna Eberhart-Phillips for helpful reviews of earlier drafts of this paper. J. Luke Blair and Marco Ticci are primarily responsible for Figures 1 and 2. Funding for SIGHT and LARSE came mostly from the U.S. National Science Foundation with contributions from the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Southern California Earthquake Center.

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