Publications

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Journal Article
Luttrell, K, Sandwell D, Smith-Konter B, Bills B, Bock Y.  2007.  Modulation of the earthquake cycle at the southern San Andreas fault by lake loading. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 112   10.1029/2006jb004752   AbstractWebsite

Changes in the level of ancient Lake Cahuilla over the last 1500 years in the Salton Trough alter the state of stress by bending the lithosphere in response to the applied lake load and by varying the pore pressure magnitude within the crust. The recurrence interval of the lake is similar to the recurrence interval of rupture on the southern San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, both of which are partially covered by the lake at its highstand. Furthermore, four of the last five ruptures on the southern San Andreas fault have occurred near a time of substantial lake level change. We investigate the effect of Coulomb stress perturbations on local faults due to changing level of Lake Cahuilla to determine a possible role for the lake in affecting the timing of fault rupture. Coulomb stress is calculated with a three-dimensional model of an elastic plate overlying a viscoelastic half-space. Plate thickness and half-space relaxation time are adjusted to match observed vertical deformation since the last lake highstand. The lake cycle causes positive and negative Coulomb stress perturbations of 0.2-0.6 MPa on the southern San Andreas within the lake and 0.1-0.2 MPa on the southern San Andreas outside the lake. These Coulomb stress perturbations are comparable to stress magnitudes known to have triggered events at other faults along the North America-Pacific plate boundary.

Smith-Konter, B, Sandwell D.  2009.  Stress evolution of the San Andreas fault system: Recurrence interval versus locking depth. Geophysical Research Letters. 36   10.1029/2009gl037235   AbstractWebsite

Major ruptures along the San Andreas Fault System (SAFS) are driven by stress that has accumulated in the upper locked portion of the crust. The present-day stress accumulation rate on any given fault segment is fairly well resolved by current geodetic measurements. Model stress accumulation rates vary between 0.5 and 7 MPa per century and are inversely proportional to earthquake recurrence intervals. In contrast, the total accumulated stress on a given fault segment is poorly resolved since it depends on the uncertain rupture history of each fault over the past few thousand years. We simulate accumulated stress at crustal depths for both past and present-day conditions by assuming complete release of accumulated slip deficit during major ruptures. These speculative results indicate that the southern San Andreas, which has not ruptured in a major earthquake in over 300 years, is currently approaching a threshold stress level. Citation: Smith-Konter, B., and D. Sandwell (2009), Stress evolution of the San Andreas fault system: Recurrence interval versus locking depth, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L13304, doi: 10.1029/2009GL037235.

Fialko, Y, Sandwell D, Simons M, Rosen P.  2005.  Three-dimensional deformation caused by the Bam, Iran, earthquake and the origin of shallow slip deficit. Nature. 435:295-299.   10.1038/nature03425   AbstractWebsite

Our understanding of the earthquake process requires detailed insights into how the tectonic stresses are accumulated and released on seismogenic faults. We derive the full vector displacement field due to the Bam, Iran, earthquake of moment magnitude 6.5 using radar data from the Envisat satellite of the European Space Agency. Analysis of surface deformation indicates that most of the seismic moment release along the 20-km-long strike-slip rupture occurred at a shallow depth of 4 - 5 km, yet the rupture did not break the surface. The Bam event may therefore represent an end-member case of the 'shallow slip deficit' model, which postulates that coseismic slip in the uppermost crust is systematically less than that at seismogenic depths ( 4 - 10 km). The InSAR-derived surface displacement data from the Bam and other large shallow earthquakes suggest that the uppermost section of the seismogenic crust around young and developing faults may undergo a distributed failure in the interseismic period, thereby accumulating little elastic strain.

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.