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Earthquake Recurrence on the Southern San Andreas Modulated by Fault-Normal Stress

Randy Palmer, Ray J. Weldon, & Eugene D. Humphreys

Published March 1, 1995, SCEC Contribution #293

Earthquake recurrence data from the Pallett Creek and Wrightwood paleoseismic sites on the San Andreas fault appear to show temporal variations in repeat interval. These sites are located near Cajon Pass, southern California, where detailed mapping has revealed geomorphically and structurally expressed domains of alternating extension and contraction respectively associated with releasing and restraining bends of the San Andreas fault. We investigate the interaction between strike-slip faults and auxiliary reverse and normal faults as a physical mechanism capable of producing such variations. Under the assumption that fault strength is a function of fault-normal stress (e.g. Byerlee’s Law), failure of an auxiliary fault modifies the strength of the strike-slip fault, thereby modulating the recurrence interval for earthquakes. In our finite element model, auxiliary faults are driven by stress accumulation near restraining and releasing bends of a strike-slip fault. Earthquakes occur when fault strength is exceeded and are incorporated as a stress drop which is dependent on fault-normal stress. The model is driven by a velocity boundary condition over many earthquake cycles. Resulting synthetic strike-slip earthquake recurrence data display temporal variations similar to observed paleoseismic data within time windows surrounding auxiliary fault failures. Although observed recurrence data for the two paleoseismic sites are too short to be definitive about the temporal variations or the physical mechanism responsible for it, our simple model supports the idea that interaction between a strike-slip fault and auxiliary reverse or normal faults can modulate the recurrence interval of events on the strike-slip fault, possibly producing short term variations in earthquake recurrence interval.

Key Words
United States, Wrightwood California, paleoseismicity, mechanism, reverse faults, strike-slip faults, California, neotectonics, normal faults, tectonics, San Bernardino County California, synthetic data, Cajon Pass, faults, seismotectonics, Los Angeles County California, numerical models, stress, Transverse Ranges, reactivation, Pallett Creek, geometry, Southern California, San Andreas Fault, periodicity, earthquakes

Palmer, R., Weldon, R. J., & Humphreys, E. D. (1995). Earthquake Recurrence on the Southern San Andreas Modulated by Fault-Normal Stress. Geophysical Research Letters, 22(5), 535-538. doi: 10.1029/94GL03393.