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Published February 1996 | metadata_only
Journal Article

Evidence for possible horizontal faulting in southern California from earthquake mechanisms


We find that 36 of the 505 fault-plane solutions (M ≥ 3.0, 1981–1990) in southern California have a nodal plane dipping no more than 30 °. With the assumption of the low-angle nodal planes being the fault planes, four cross sections are constructed to show the possible horizontal faults in the middle and upper crust. More than half of these low-angle faults are located within or adjacent to the Transverse Ranges. The focal depths vary from 1 km in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada and the southwestern Mojave Desert to 20 km in the Transverse Ranges. The slip directions are also diverse. In general, east-west extensional movements are dominant in the boundary between the southern Sierra Nevada extending to the San Emigdio Mountains and the western Mojave Desert, whereas north-south compressional movements are dominant in the Transverse Ranges. In the Peninsular Ranges and the Salton Trough, both the slip directions and focal depths vary. These features suggest that seismically active low-angle faults in southern California may exist at different depths and slip in various directions. Our data do not support the existence of a regional-scale seismically active detachment in southern California. Only in the western Transverse Ranges is there some suggestion of a large detachment surface at a depth of about 13 to 14 km.

Additional Information

© 1996 Geological Society of America. Manuscript received May 12, 1995. Revised manuscript received October 10, 1995. Manuscript accepted October 23, 1995. Supported by U.S. Geological Survey grant 14-08-0001-G1774. We thank Tom Parsons and an anonymous reviewer for constructive reviews of the manuscript, and Don Anderson and Joann Stock for helpful discussions. Seismological Laboratory, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology contribution 5542.

Additional details

August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023