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Termination of Strike-Slip Faults at Convergence Zones Within Continental Transform Boundaries: Examples from the California Continental Borderland

Mark R. Legg, Marc J. Kamerling, & Robert D. Francis

Published 2004, SCEC Contribution #678

Continental transform plate boundaries are broad, composed of numerous active and subparallel strike-slip fault zones. Irregular geometry along the major transform structure creates convergence and divergence zones within the plate boundary where other strike-slip faults terminate. Some prominent irregularities result from microplate interactions. Relative fault displacement, diminishing to zero at fault terminations, must be accommodated or transferred to other structures, laterally or vertically, away from the fault end-point. Distinct styles of strike-slip fault termination may represent different degrees of vertical strain partitioning within the plate boundary.

The Western Transverse Ranges (WTR) of California mark a major structural discontinuity that cuts at high angle across the Pacific-North America transform boundary. Within the California Continental Borderland, two end-member classes of right-slip fault termination against the WTR are apparent. (1) Several major faults, including the San Clemente, San Pedro Basin, Ferrelo and Newport-Inglewood, intersect the southern boundary of the WTR at high angles, with negligible to minor local deflection and minor dissipation of right shear at the Earth’s surface. These faults are inferred to cut through the entire borderland crust and continue in the lower crust beneath the WTR, as evident in geophysical data. These ‘blind’ near vertical faults may control segmentation and earthquake activity on the overlying west-trending WTR structures. (2) In contrast, the Palos Verdes and possibly Whittier faults appear broadly deflected westward to merge at low angle with WTR structure. NW-trending faults rotate counterclockwise, away from the axis of principal shortening as observed in pure shear models, and slip is dissipated through folding, thrust transfer and rotation. Deflected faults are inferred to be predominately upper crustal features, detached from the lower crust and unable to underthrust the WTR. These two distinct right-slip fault termination styles, and associated convergent structures, suggest that basal shear drives vertical-axis rotation of the WTR block over the underthrust Inner Borderland plate. Furthermore, the lower plate, slivered by these right-slip faults, is incompletely coupled with the Pacific plate.

Legg, M. R., Kamerling, M. J., & Francis, R. D. (2004). Termination of Strike-Slip Faults at Convergence Zones Within Continental Transform Boundaries: Examples from the California Continental Borderland. , : . doi: 10.1144/GSL.SP.2004.227.01.04.