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Published 1972 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

Displacements on the Imperial, Superstition Hills, and San Andreas Faults Triggered by the Borrego Mountain Earthquake


The Borrego Mountain earthquake of April 9, 1968, triggered small but consistent surface displacements on three faults far outside the source area and zone of aftershock activity. Right-lateral displacement of 1-2 1/2 cm occurred along 22, 23, and 30 km of the Imperial, Superstition Hills, and San Andreas (Banning-Mission Creek) faults, respectively, at distances of 70, 45, and 50 km from the epicenter. Although these displacements were not noticed until 4 days after the earthquake, their association with the earthquake is suggested by the freshness of the resultant en echelon cracks at that time and by the absence of creep along most of these faults during the year before or the year after the event. Dynamic strain associated with the shaking is a more likely cause of the distant displacements than is the static strain associated with the faulting at Borrego Mountain because (1) the dynamic strain was much larger and (2) the static strain at the San Andreas fault was in the wrong sense for the observed displacement. The principal surface displacements on the Imperial fault took place within 4 days of the earthquake and may have occurred simultaneously with the passage of the seismic waves, but the possibility of delayed propagation to the surface is indicated by a 1971 event on the Imperial fault in which the surface displacement followed the triggering earthquake by 3-6 days. All three of the distant faults are "active" in that they show evidence of repeated Quaternary movement, and surface displacements occurred only along those segments where the fault trace is well delineated in surface exposures, at least in uncultivated areas. This is the first documented example of fault displacement triggered by seismic shaking far from the source area, although such displacement has probably gone undetected many previous times here and in similar tectonic environments. This phenomenon forces us to be much more conservative in estimating the probabilities of damage from surface displacements along active faults in seismic regions.

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© 1972 USGS.

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August 19, 2023
January 13, 2024