Publications

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2012
Luttrell, K, Sandwell D.  2012.  Constraints on 3-D stress in the crust from support of mid-ocean ridge topography. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 117   10.1029/2011jb008765   AbstractWebsite

The direction of crustal stresses acting at mid-ocean ridges is well characterized, but the magnitude of these stresses is poorly constrained. We present a method by which the absolute magnitude of these stresses may be constrained using seafloor topography and gravity. The topography is divided into a short-wavelength portion, created by rifting, magmatism, and transform faulting, and a long-wavelength portion associated with the cooling and subsidence of the oceanic lithosphere. The short-wavelength surface and Moho topography are used to calculate the spatially varying 3-D stress tensor in the crust by assuming that in creating this topography, the deviatoric stress reached the elastic-plastic limiting stress; the Moho topography is constrained by short-wavelength gravity variations. Under these assumptions, an incompressible elastic material gives the smallest plastic failure stress associated with this topography. This short-wavelength topographic stress generally predicts the wrong style of earthquake focal mechanisms at ridges and transform faults. However, the addition of an in-plane regional stress field is able to reconcile the combined crustal stress with both the ridge and transform focal mechanisms. By adjusting the magnitude of the regional stress, we determine a lower bound for in situ ridge-perpendicular extension of 25-40 MPa along the slow spreading mid-Atlantic ridge, 40-50 MPa along the ultra-slow spreading ridges in the western Indian Ocean, and 10-30 MPa along the fast spreading ridges of the southeastern Indian and Pacific Oceans. Furthermore, we constrain the magnitude of ridge-parallel extension to be between 4 and 8 MPa in the Atlantic Ocean, between -1 and 7 MPa in the western Indian Ocean, and between -1 and 3 MPa in the southeastern Indian and Pacific Oceans. These observations suggest that a deep transform valley is an essential feature of the ridge-transform spreading center.

2011
Smith-Konter, BR, Sandwell DT, Shearer P.  2011.  Locking depths estimated from geodesy and seismology along the San Andreas Fault System: Implications for seismic moment release. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 116   10.1029/2010jb008117   AbstractWebsite

The depth of the seismogenic zone is a critical parameter for earthquake hazard models. Independent observations from seismology and geodesy can provide insight into the depths of faulting, but these depths do not always agree. Here we inspect variations in fault depths of 12 segments of the southern San Andreas Fault System derived from over 1000 GPS velocities and 66,000 relocated earthquake hypocenters. Geodetically determined locking depths range from 6 to 22 km, while seismogenic thicknesses are largely limited to depths of 11-20 km. These seismogenic depths best match the geodetic locking depths when estimated at the 95% cutoff depth in seismicity, and most fault segment depths agree to within 2 km. However, the Imperial, Coyote Creek, and Borrego segments have significant discrepancies. In these cases the geodetically inferred locking depths are much shallower than the seismogenic depths. We also examine variations in seismic moment accumulation rate per unit fault length as suggested by seismicity and geodesy and find that both approaches yield high rates ( 1.5-1.8 x 10(13) Nm/yr/km) along the Mojave and Carrizo segments and low rates (similar to 0.2 x 1013 Nm/yr/km) along several San Jacinto segments. The largest difference in seismic moment between models is calculated for the Imperial segment, where the moment rate from seismic depths is a factor of similar to 2.5 larger than that from geodetic depths. Such variability has important implications for the accuracy to which future major earthquake magnitudes can be estimated.

1997
Sandwell, DT, Johnson CL, Bilotti F, Suppe J.  1997.  Driving forces for limited tectonics on Venus. Icarus. 129:232-244.   10.1006/icar.1997.5721   AbstractWebsite

The very high correlation of geoid height and topography on Venus, along with the high geoid topography ratio, can be interpreted as local isostatic compensation and/or dynamic compensation of topography at depths ranging from 50 to 350 km. For local compensation within the lithosphere, the swell-push force is proportional to the first moment of the anomalous density. Since the long-wavelength isostatic geoid height is also proportional to the first moment of the anomalous density, the swell push force is equal to the geoid height scaled by -g(2)/2 pi G. Because of this direct relationship, the style (i.e., thermal, Airy, or Pratt compensation) and depth of compensation do not need to be specified and can in fact vary over the surface. Phillips (1990) showed that this simple relationship between swell-push force and geoid also holds for dynamic uplift by shear traction on the base of the lithosphere caused by thermal convection of an isoviscous, infinite half-space mantle. Thus for all reasonable isostatic models and particular classes of dynamic models, the geoid height uniquely determines the magnitude of the swell-push body force that is applied to the venusian lithosphere. Given this body force and assuming Venus can be approximated by a uniform thickness thin elastic shell over an inviscid sphere, we calculate the present-day global strain field using equations given in Banerdt (1986); areas of positive geoid height are in a state of extension while areas of negative geoid height are in a state of compression. The present-day model strain field is compared to global strain patterns inferred from Magellan-derived maps of wrinkle ridges and rift zones. Wrinkle ridges, which are believed to reflect distributed compressive deformation, are generally confined to regions with geoid of less than 20 m while rift zones are found primarily along geoid highs. Moreover, much of the observed deformation matches the present-day model strain orientations suggesting that most of the rifts on Venus and many of the wrinkle ridges formed in a stress field similar to the present one. In several large regions, the present-day model strain pattern does not match the observations. This suggests that either the geoid has changed significantly since most of the strain occurred or our model assumptions are incorrect (e.g., there could be local plate boundaries where the stress pattern is discontinuous). Since the venusian lithosphere shows evidence for limited strain, the calculation also provides an estimate of the overall strength of the lithosphere in compression and extension which can be compared with rheological models of yield strength versus depth. At the crests of the major swells, where evidence for rifting is abundant, we find that the temperature gradient must be at least 7 K/km. (C) 1997 Academic Press.