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Published March 10, 1981 | Published
Journal Article Open

Relationship of the 1979 Southern California Radon Anomaly to a possible regional strain event


During the second half of 1979, anomalously high emanation of radon was recorded at two stations of the automated radon-thoron monitoring network operated by the W. K. Kellogg Radiation Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology. The two stations exhibiting major anomalies, Kresge and Dalton Canyon, are located approximately 30 km apart on the frontal fault system of the Transverse Ranges of southern California. At Kresge the anomaly began on June 21, 1979, and continued through December 1979. At Dalton Canyon the anomaly started about 3 weeks later and also continued through December 1979. At both sites the anomalous levels of radon decreased (but did not return entirely to normal values) shortly before October 15, 1979. During the week of October 15, 1979, a 6.6-M earthquake occurred about 290 km to the southeast of the two stations, and later in that week, earthquakes of magnitude 4.2 and 4.1 occurred at Malibu and Lytle Creek. The latter two events were within 60 km of the monitors. A radon-thoron monitor at Lytle Creek recorded no long-term anomaly but did record a sharp spikelike decrease in the radon level on October 13, 1979. Coincident with our observations of anomalous radon levels, other investigators have reported anomalies or suspected anomalies in several other geodetic, geophysical, and geochemical signals from the same general region. The rapid temporal development of several of the anomalies together with the large area over which they were observed suggests that a large-scale strain event took place which may have been responsible both for the widespread anomalies and for the seismicity that occurred in the region subsequent to the onset of the anomalies.

Additional Information

Copyright 1981 by the American Geophysical Union. (Received August 29, 1980; revised October 24, 1980; accepted October 28, 1980.) Paper number 80B1527. This work was supported in part by USGS contract 14-08-0001-17734 and NSF grant PHY79-23638 at the California Institute of Technology. We thank H. Craig, C. Johnson, L. K. Hutton, and J. Savage for providing data prior to publication. We also thank L. K. Hutton and T. Heaton for helpful comments on this paper.

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