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Holocene Activity of the Rose Canyon Fault, San Diego, California

Scott C. Lindvall, & Thomas K. Rockwell

Published 1995, SCEC Contribution #211

The Rose Canyon fault zone in San Diego, California, has many well-expressed geomorphic characteristics of an active strike-slip fault, including scarps, offset and deflected drainages and channel walls, pressure ridges, a closed depression, and vegetation lineaments. Geomorphic expression of the fault zone from Mount Soledad south to Mission Bay indicates that the Mount Soledad strand is the most active. A network of trenches excavated across the Mount Soledad strand in Rose Creek demonstrate a minimum of 8.7 m of dextral slip in a distinctive early to middle Holocene gravel-filled channel that crosses the fault zone. The gravel-filled channel was preserved within and east of the fault but was removed west of the fault zone by erosion or possibly grading during development. Consequently, the actual displacement of the channel could be greater than 8.7 m. Radiocarbon dates on detrital charcoal recovered from the sediments beneath the channel yield a maximum calibrated age of about 8.1 ±0.2 kyr. The minimum amount of slip along with the maximum age yield a minimum slip rate of 1.07±0.03 mm/yr on this strand of the Rose Canyon fault zone for much of Holocene time. Other strands of the Rose Canyon fault zone, which are east and west of our site, may also have Holocene activity. Based on an analysis of the geomorpholôgy of fault traces within the Rose Canyon fault zone, along with the results of our trenching study, we estimate the maximum likely slip rate at about 2 mm/yr and a best estimate of about 1.5 mm/yr. Stratigraphie evidence of at least three events is present during the past 8.1 kyr. The most recent surface rupture displaces the modern A horizon (topsoil), suggesting that this event probably occurred within the past 500 years. Stratigraphie and structural relationships also indicate the occurrence of a scarp-forming event at about 8.1 kyr, prior to deposition of the gravel-filled channel that was used as a piercing line. A third event is indicated by the presence of several fault strands that displace the channel but did not move during the most recent event. Other events may also have occurred, but these data suggest that the return time for surface-rupturing earthquakes is no more than about 4 kyr.

Lindvall, S. C., & Rockwell, T. K. (1995). Holocene Activity of the Rose Canyon Fault, San Diego, California. Journal of Geophysical Research, 100(B12), 24121-24132.