Exciting news! We're transitioning to the Statewide California Earthquake Center. Our new website is under construction, but we'll continue using this website for SCEC business in the meantime. We're also archiving the Southern Center site to preserve its rich history. A new and improved platform is coming soon!

Escape Tectonics in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region and the Implications for Seismic Risk

Christian Walls, Thomas K. Rockwell, Karl J. Mueller, Yehuda Bock, Simon Williams, John L. Pfanner, James F. Dolan, & Peng Fang

Published July 1998, SCEC Contribution #400

Recent damaging earthquakes in California, including the 1971 San Fernando, 1983 Coalinga, 1987 Whittier Narrows and 1994 Northridge events, have drawn attention to thrust faults as both potentially hazardous seismic sources and as a mechanism for accommodating shortening in many regions of southern California. Consequently, many geological studies have concluded that thrust faults in Southern California pose the greatest seismic hazard, and also account for most of the estimated 5–7 mm yr-1 of contraction across the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area indicated by Global Positioning System geodetic measurements. Our study demonstrates, however, that less than 50% of the geodetically observed contraction is accommodated on the principal thrust systems across the Los Angeles region. We integrate the most recent geological, geodetic and seismological data to assess the spatial distribution of strain across the Los Angeles metropolitan region. We then demonstrate that a significant component of seismic moment release and shortening in this region is accommodated by east–west crustal escape 'extrusion' along known strike-slip and oblique-slip faults.

Walls, C., Rockwell, T. K., Mueller, K. J., Bock, Y., Williams, S., Pfanner, J. L., Dolan, J. F., & Fang, P. (1998). Escape Tectonics in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region and the Implications for Seismic Risk. Nature, 394, 356-360. doi: 10.1038/28590.