Publications

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2016
Howell, S, Smith-Konter B, Frazer N, Tong XP, Sandwell D.  2016.  The vertical fingerprint of earthquake cycle loading in southern California. Nature Geoscience. 9:611-+.   10.1038/ngeo2741   AbstractWebsite

The San Andreas Fault System, one of the best-studied transform plate boundaries on Earth, is well known for its complex network of locked faults that slowly deform the crust in response to large-scale plate motions(1-8). Horizontal interseismic motions of the fault system are largely predictable, but vertical motions arising from tectonic sources remain enigmatic. Here we show that when carefully treated for spatial consistency, global positioning system-derived vertical velocities expose a small-amplitude (+/- 2mmyr(-1)), but spatially considerable (200 km), coherent pattern of uplift and subsidence straddling the fault system in southern California. We employ the statistical method of model selection to isolate this vertical velocity field fromnon-tectonic signals that induce velocity variations in both magnitude and direction across small distances (less than tens of kilometres; ref. 9), and find remarkable agreement with the sense of vertical motions predicted by physical earthquake cycle models spanning the past few centuries(6,10). We suggest that these motions reveal the subtle, but identifiable, tectonic fingerprint of far-field flexure due to more than 300 years of fault locking and creeping depth variability. Understanding this critical component of interseismic deformation at a complex strike-slip plate boundary will better constrain regional mechanics and crustal rheology, improving the quantification of seismic hazards in southern California and beyond.

Matthews, KJ, Mullner RD, Sandwell DT.  2016.  Oceanic microplate formation records the onset of India-Eurasia collision. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 433:204-214.   10.1016/j.epsl.2015.10.040   AbstractWebsite

Mapping of seafloor tectonic fabric in the Indian Ocean, using high-resolution satellite-derived vertical gravity gradient data, reveals an extinct Pacific-style oceanic microplate ('Mammerickx Microplate') west of the Ninetyeast Ridge. It is one of the first Pacific-style microplates to be mapped outside the Pacific basin, suggesting that geophysical conditions during formation probably resembled those that have dominated at eastern Pacific ridges. The microplate formed at the Indian-Antarctic ridge and is bordered by an extinct ridge in the north and pseudofault in the south, whose conjugate is located north of the Kerguelen Plateau. Independent microplate rotation is indicated by asymmetric pseudofaults and rotated abyssal hill fabric, also seen in multibeam data. Magnetic anomaly picks and age estimates calculated from published spreading rates suggest formation during chron 21o (similar to 47.3 Ma). Plate reorganizations can trigger ridge propagation and microplate development, and we propose that Mammerickx Microplate formation is linked with the India-Eurasia collision (initial 'soft' collision). The collision altered the stress regime at the Indian-Antarctic ridge, leading to a change in segmentation and ridge propagation from an establishing transform. Fast Indian-Antarctic spreading that preceded microplate formation, and Kerguelen Plume activity, may have facilitated ridge propagation via the production of thin and weak lithosphere; however both factors had been present for tens of millions of years and are therefore unlikely to have triggered the event. Prior to the collision, the combination of fast spreading and plume activity was responsible for the production of a wide region of undulate seafloor to the north of the extinct ridge and 'W' shaped lineations that record back and forth ridge propagation. Microplate formation provides a precise means of dating the onset of the India-Eurasia collision, and is completely independent of and complementary to timing constraints derived from continental geology or convergence histories. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2014
Smith-Konter, BR, Thornton GM, Sandwell DT.  2014.  Vertical crustal displacement due to interseismic deformation along the San Andreas fault: Constraints from tide gauges. Geophysical Research Letters. 41:3793-3801.   10.1002/2014gl060091   AbstractWebsite

Interseismic motion along complex strike-slip fault systems such as the San Andreas Fault System (SAFS) can produce vertical velocities that are similar to 10 times smaller than horizontal velocities, caused by along-strike variations in fault orientation and locking depth. Tide gauge stations provide a long (50-100 year) recording history of sea level change due to several oceanographic and geologic processes, including vertical earthquake cycle deformation. Here we compare relative sea level displacements with predictions from a 3-D elastic/viscoelastic earthquake cycle model of the SAFS. We find that models with lithospheric structure reflecting a thick elastic plate (> 50km) and moderate viscosities produce vertical motions in surprisingly good agreement with the relative tide gauge uplift rates. These results suggest that sea level variations along the California coastline contain a small but identifiable tectonic signal reflecting the flexure of the elastic plate caused by bending moments applied at the ends of locked faults.

2013
Tong, X, Sandwell DT, Smith-Konter B.  2013.  High-resolution interseismic velocity data along the San Andreas Fault from GPS and InSAR. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 118:369-389.   10.1029/2012jb009442   AbstractWebsite

We compared four interseismic velocity models of the San Andreas Fault based on GPS observations. The standard deviations of the predicted secular velocity from the four models are larger north of the San Francisco Bay area, near the creeping segment in Central California, and along the San Jacinto Fault and the East California Shear Zone in Southern California. A coherence spectrum analysis of the secular velocity fields indicates relatively high correlation among the four models at longer wavelengths (>15-40 km), with lower correlation at shorter wavelengths. To improve the short-wavelength accuracy of the interseismic velocity model, we integrated interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) observations, initially from Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) ascending data (spanning from the middle of 2006 to the end of 2010, totaling more than 1100 interferograms), with GPS observations using a Sum/Remove/Filter/Restore approach. The final InSAR line of sight data match the point GPS observations with a mean absolute deviation of 1.5 mm/yr. We systematically evaluated the fault creep rates along major faults of the San Andreas Fault and compared them with creepmeters and alignment array data compiled in Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, Version 2 (UCERF2). Moreover, this InSAR line of sight dataset can constrain rapid velocity gradients near the faults, which are critical for understanding the along-strike variations in stress accumulation rate and associated earthquake hazard. Citation: Tong, X., D. T. Sandwell, and B. Smith-Konter (2013), High-resolution interseismic velocity data along the San Andreas Fault from GPS and InSAR, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 118, 369-389, doi:10.1029/2012JB009442.

2011
Luttrell, KM, Tong XP, Sandwell DT, Brooks BA, Bevis MG.  2011.  Estimates of stress drop and crustal tectonic stress from the 27 February 2010 Maule, Chile, earthquake: Implications for fault strength. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 116   10.1029/2011jb008509   AbstractWebsite

The great 27 February 2010 M(w) 8.8 earthquake off the coast of southern Chile ruptured a similar to 600 km length of subduction zone. In this paper, we make two independent estimates of shear stress in the crust in the region of the Chile earthquake. First, we use a coseismic slip model constrained by geodetic observations from interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) and GPS to derive a spatially variable estimate of the change in static shear stress along the ruptured fault. Second, we use a static force balance model to constrain the crustal shear stress required to simultaneously support observed fore-arc topography and the stress orientation indicated by the earthquake focal mechanism. This includes the derivation of a semianalytic solution for the stress field exerted by surface and Moho topography loading the crust. We find that the deviatoric stress exerted by topography is minimized in the limit when the crust is considered an incompressible elastic solid, with a Poisson ratio of 0.5, and is independent of Young's modulus. This places a strict lower bound on the critical stress state maintained by the crust supporting plastically deformed accretionary wedge topography. We estimate the coseismic shear stress change from the Maule event ranged from -6 MPa (stress increase) to 17 MPa (stress drop), with a maximum depth-averaged crustal shear-stress drop of 4 MPa. We separately estimate that the plate-driving forces acting in the region, regardless of their exact mechanism, must contribute at least 27 MPa trench-perpendicular compression and 15 MPa trench-parallel compression. This corresponds to a depth-averaged shear stress of at least 7 MPa. The comparable magnitude of these two independent shear stress estimates is consistent with the interpretation that the section of the megathrust fault ruptured in the Maule earthquake is weak, with the seismic cycle relieving much of the total sustained shear stress in the crust.

2007
Wdowinski, S, Smith-Konter B, Bock Y, Sandwell D.  2007.  Diffuse interseismic deformation across the Pacific-North America plate boundary. Geology. 35:311-314.   10.1130/g22938a.1   AbstractWebsite

Crustal movements and deformation within the diffuse Pacific-North America (Pa-NA) plate boundary are dominated by the right-lateral motion between the two plates. By using the Pa-NA pole of rotation (PoR) spherical coordinate system, we decompose observed crustal movements into parallel and normal components to the Pa-NA plate motion. We transformed the 840 velocity vectors of the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) 3.0 velocity field into the Pa-NA PoR system in order to characterize the interseismic velocity across the plate boundary. Our results show that despite the very different deformation styles occurring across the San Andreas fault, the fault trace follows the half plate motion contour. Deviation occurs in the southern section, where the half motion contour correlates with the San Jacinto and Imperial fault segments. Our analysis yields interesting asymmetric patterns in both parallel and normal components. The parallel component shows asymmetrical velocity gradients across the San Andreas fault, and the normal component indicates compression southwest of the Big Bend, but not northeastward. The observations are compared with viscoelastic modeling results, which show a similar velocity field. The main disagreements between the observations and the model are in a narrow band along the San Andreas fault and in the Mojave block, suggesting that crustal heterogeneities and additional unmodeled fault segments should be considered in future models.

1995
Sandwell, DT, Winterer EL, Mammerickx J, Duncan RA, Lynch MA, Levitt DA, Johnson CL.  1995.  Evidence for Diffuse Extension of the Pacific Plate from Pukapuka Ridges and Cross-Grain Gravity Lineations. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 100:15087-15099.   10.1029/95jb00156   AbstractWebsite

Satellite altimeter measurements of marine gravity reveal 100 to 200-km wavelength lineations over a wide area of the Pacific plate oriented roughly in the direction of absolute plate motion. At least three mechanisms have been proposed for their origin: small-scale convective rolls aligned in the direction of absolute plate motion by shear in the asthenosphere; diffuse N-S extension of the lithosphere resulting in lineated zones of extension (boudins); and minihotspots that move slowly with respect to major hotspots and produce intermittent volcanism. Recently, several chains of linear volcanic ridges have been found to be associated with the gravity lineations. Following ridgelike gravity signatures apparent in high-resolution Geosat gravity measurements, we surveyed a series of volcanic ridges that extend northwest from the East Pacific Rise flank for 2600 km onto 40 Ma seafloor. Our survey data, as well as radiometric dates on samples we collected from the ridges, provide tight constraints on their origin: (1) Individual ridge segments and sets of ridges are highly elongate in the direction of present absolute plate motion. (2) The ridges formed along a band 50 to 70-km-wide in the trough of one of the more prominent gravity lineations. (3) Radiometric dates of the largest ridges show no hotspot age progression. Moreover, the directions predicted for minihotspot traces older than 24 Ma do not match observed directions of either the gravity lineations or the ridges. Based on this last observation, we reject the minihotspot model. The occurrence of the ridges in the trough of the gravity lineation is incompatible with the small-scale convection model which would predict increased volcanism above the convective upwelling. We favor the diffuse extension model because it is consistent with the occurrence of ridges in the trough above the more highly extended lithosphere. However, the multibeam data show no evidence for widespread normal faulting of the crust as predicted by the model. Perhaps the fault scarps are buried under more than 30 m of sediments and/or covered by the elongated ridges. Finally, we note that if ridge-push force is much smaller than trench-pull force, then near the ridge axis the direction of maximum tensile stress must be perpendicular to the direction of absolute plate motion.