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Characterization of damage in sandstones along the Mojave section of the San Andreas Fault: implications for the shallow extent of damage generation

Ory Dor, Judith S. Chester, Yehuda Ben-Zion, James N. Brune, & Thomas K. Rockwell

Published October 2009, SCEC Contribution #1404

Following theoretical calculations that suggest shallow generation of rock damage during an earthquake rupture, we measure the degree of fracture damage in young sedimentary rocks from the Juniper Hills Formation (JHF) that were displaced 21 km along the Mojave section of San Andreas Fault (SAF) and were not exhumed significantly during their displacement. In exposures adjacent to the fault, the JHF typically displays original sedimentary fabrics and little evidence of bulk shear strain at the mesoscopic scale. The formation is, however, pervasively fractured at the microscopic scale over a zone that is about a 100 m wide on the southwest side of the SAF near Little Rock. The abundance of open fractures, the poor consolidation, and the shallow inferred burial depth imply that the damage was generated close to the surface of the Earth. The spatial correlation of this damage with a seismically active trace of the SAF suggests that it was generated by SAF slip events that by assumption were of a seismic nature throughout the displacement history of the JHF. Thus the JHF provides a very shallow upper bound for the generation of brittle damage in a seismic fault zone. The fracture fabric is characterized by preferred orientations of fractures that split grains between contact points and is consistent with overall deformation under directed compression. However, the available results cannot be used to distinguish between proposed off-fault damage mechanisms. Fracture orientations are compatible with a maximum compressive stress oriented at a high angle to the fault at about 10 m, and at a lower, more variable angle farther away from the fault. The fracture distribution and fabric are consistent with observations made of the microscale damage characteristics of the Hungry Valley Formation in the northwestern section of the SAF in the Mojave, and with previous observations of exhumed, ancestral strands of the SAF.

Dor, O., Chester, J. S., Ben-Zion, Y., Brune, J. N., & Rockwell, T. K. (2009). Characterization of damage in sandstones along the Mojave section of the San Andreas Fault: implications for the shallow extent of damage generation. Pure and Applied Geophysics, 166(10-11), 1747-1773. doi: 10.1007/s00024-009-0516-z.