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Earthquake-by-Earthquake Fold Above the Puente Hills Blind Thrust Fault, Los Angeles, California: Implications for Fold Kinematics and Seismic Hazard

Lorraine A. Leon, Shari Christofferson, James F. Dolan, John H. Shaw, & Thomas L. Pratt

Published March 2007, SCEC Contribution #1001

Boreholes and high-resolution seismic reflection data collected across the forelimb growth triangle above the central segment of the Puente Hills thrust fault (PHT) beneath Los Angeles, California, provide a detailed record of incremental fold growth during large earthquakes on this major blind thrust fault. These data document fold growth within a discrete kink band that narrows upward from ∼460 m at the base of the Quaternary section (200–250 m depth) to <150 m at 2.5 m depth, with most growth during the most recent folding event occurring within a zone only ∼60 m wide. These observations, coupled with evidence from petroleum industry seismic reflection data, demonstrate that most (>82% at 250 m depth) folding and uplift occur within discrete kink bands, thereby enabling us to develop a paleoseismic history of the underlying blind thrust fault. The borehole data reveal that the youngest part of the growth triangle in the uppermost 20 m comprises three stratigraphically discrete growth intervals marked by southward thickening sedimentary strata that are separated by intervals in which sediments do not change thickness across the site. We interpret the intervals of growth as occurring after the formation of now-buried paleofold scarps during three large PHT earthquakes in the past 8 kyr. The intervening intervals of no growth record periods of structural quiescence and deposition at the regional, near-horizontal stream gradient at the study site. Minimum uplift in each of the scarp-forming events, which occurred at 0.2–2.2 ka (event Y), 3.0–6.3 ka (event X), and 6.6–8.1 ka (event W), ranged from ∼1.1 to ∼1.6 m, indicating minimum thrust displacements of ≥2.5 to 4.5 m. Such large displacements are consistent with the occurrence of large-magnitude earthquakes (M w > 7). Cumulative, minimum uplift in the past three events was 3.3 to 4.7 m, suggesting cumulative thrust displacement of ≥7 to 10.5 m. These values yield a minimum Holocene slip rate for the PHT of ≥0.9 to 1.6 mm/yr. The borehole and seismic reflection data demonstrate that dip within the kink band is acquired incrementally, such that older strata that have been deformed by more earthquakes dip more steeply than younger strata. Specifically, strata dip 0.4° at 4 m depth, 0.7° at 20 m depth, 8° at 90 m, 16° at 110 m, and 17° at 200 m. Moreover, structural restorations of the borehole data show that the locus of active folding (the anticlinal active axial surface) does not extend to the surface in exactly the same location from earthquake to earthquake. Rather, that the axial surfaces migrate from earthquake to earthquake, reflecting a component of fold growth by kink band migration. The incremental acquisition of bed dip in the growth triangle may reflect some combination of fold growth by limb rotation in addition to kink band migration, possibly through a component of trishear or shear fault bend folding. Alternatively, the component of limb rotation may result from curved hinge fault bend folding, and/or the mechanical response of loosely consolidated granular sediments in the shallow subsurface to folding at depth.

Key Words
United States, geophysical surveys, geologic hazards, isotopes, uplifts, Holocene, Cenozoic, California, radioactive isotopes, dip, dates, blind faults, folds, carbon, seismic risk, absolute age, thickness, active faults, faults, Los Angeles County California, focal mechanism, seismic profiles, Quaternary, geophysical methods, deformation, seismic methods, kinematics, thrust faults, Puente Hills Fault, hinge faults, Puente Hills, surveys, geophysical profiles, C-14, earthquakes

Leon, L. A., Christofferson, S., Dolan, J. F., Shaw, J. H., & Pratt, T. L. (2007). Earthquake-by-Earthquake Fold Above the Puente Hills Blind Thrust Fault, Los Angeles, California: Implications for Fold Kinematics and Seismic Hazard. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 112(B03S03). doi: 10.1029/2006JB004461.