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Published February 2005 | Published
Journal Article Open

Seismic refraction evidence for steep faults cutting highly attenuated continental basement in the central Transverse ranges, California


A 2-D upper crustal structural profile with seven steeply dipping faults was constructed from the Los Angeles Region Seismic Experiment phase II (LARSE II) seismic refraction data recorded over the north central Transverse ranges and adjacent Mojave desert in southern California. The profile extends to a depth of approximately 4 km. The faults were identified from distinctive features in the seismic first arrival data, while the velocity structure was determined from travel times and refined by forward modelling. The resulting seismic velocity structure is correlative to the geological structure along the profile and is used to help constrain a geological cross-section. Six of the seven faults detected from the seismic data correspond directly to geologically mapped faults in the central Transverse ranges and adjacent Mojave desert. From south to north, they are the Pelona fault, the San Francisquito fault, the Clearwater fault, the San Andreas fault and two faults that cut the Portal ridge. The seventh fault is buried beneath Quaternary deposits of the western Mojave desert and appears to correlate with an additional fault that cuts Portal ridge out of the section line. The southernmost fault (the Pelona fault) separates the younger Vasquez formation in the south from the Pelona schist in the north and is determined to be an intermediate (40°–60°) south-dipping normal fault. This coupled with field observations indicate that the Pelona fault was instrumental in the late Oligocene—early Miocene formation of the Soledad basin, and the structural ascent and exhumation of the Pelona schist along the proto-Sierra Pelona intrabasin ridge. Analogous Neogene extensional deformation is found to have affected the western Mojave desert region, where faults 6 and 7 appear to have had north side down normal displacement and to have been instrumental in forming the western Antelope basin. A 6.0 km s−1 basal layer to our shallow seismic structure is correlated with the Pelona schist south of the San Andreas fault and with the tectonically related Rand schist beneath the western Mojave desert. Granitic and gneissic crystalline rocks, which form regional upper plate complexes along the Vincent thrust above the Pelona schist and along the Rand thrust above the Rand schist, yield consistently low seismic velocities as compared with the expected velocities for the constituent rock types. These anomalous velocities are reconciled by the degraded structural and textural state of the upper plate crystalline rocks that resulted from extreme shearing, brittle fracturing and related retrogressive hydration reactions starting during or shortly after the latest Cretaceous—early Palaeocene underthrusting of the schists. Extension, translation along the San Andreas transform system and compressional faulting with the uplift of the Transverse ranges further accentuated the basement deformations. The integrated result is that the survival of the Precambrian through Mesozoic granitic crust of the region became a rootless and highly attenuated upper crustal layer.

Additional Information

© 2005 RAS. Article first published online: 24 Jan. 2005. Accepted 2004 September 30. Received 2003 September 13; in original form. We thank the many volunteers who helped with the LARSE II experiment. We would like to thank Jascha Polet, Vala Hjorleifsdottir and Javier Favela for their reviews and comments. Helpful reviews by Walter Mooney and an anonymous referee are gratefully acknowledged. This research was supported by the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC). The SCEC is funded by NSF Cooperative Agreement EAR-0106924 and USGS Cooperative Agreement 02HQAG0008. This paper is SCEC contribution no. 736 and the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, Caltech, contribution no. 8972. JS acknowledges support under NSF grant EAR-0087347.

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