Crustal strain accumulation on Southern Basin and Range Province faults modulated by distant plate boundary earthquakes? Evidence from geodesy, seismic imaging, and paleoseismology
Monday, 15 December 2014: 4:15 PM
GPS in Arizona reveals a change in the pattern of crustal strain accumulation in 2010 and based on viscoelastic modeling appears to be associated with the distant M7.2 El Mayor-Cucapah (EMC) earthquake in Baja California, Mexico. GPS data collected between 1999 and 2009 near the Santa Rita normal fault in SE Arizona reveal a narrow zone of crustal deformation coincident with the fault trace, delineated by W-NW facing Pleistocene fault scarps of heights 1 to 7 m. The apparent deformation zone is also seen in a preliminary InSAR interferogram. Total motion across the zone inferred using an elastic block model constrained by the pre-2010 GPS measurements is ~1 mm/yr in a sense consistent with normal fault motion. However, continuous GPS measurements throughout Arizona reveal pronounced changes in crustal velocity following the EMC earthquake, such that the relative motion across the Santa Rita fault post-2010 is negligible. Paleoseismic evidence indicates that mapped Santa Rita fault scarps were formed by two or more large magnitude (M6.7 to M7.6) surface rupturing normal-faulting earthquakes 60 to 100 kyrs ago. Seismic refraction and reflection data constrained by deep (~800 m) well log data provide evidence of progressive, possibly intermittent, displacement on the fault through time. The rate of strain accumulation observed geodetically prior to 2010, if constant over the past 60 to 100 kyrs, would imply an untenable minimum slip rate deficit of 60 to 100 m since the most recent earthquake. One explanation for the available geodetic, seismic, and paleoseismic evidence is that strain accumulation is modulated by viscoelastic relaxation associated with frequent large magnitude earthquakes in the Salton Trough region, episodically inhibiting the accumulation of elastic strain required to generate large earthquakes on the Santa Rita and possibly other faults in the Southern Basin and Range. An important question is thus for how long the postseismic velocity changes will persist relative to the recurrence interval of large Salton Trough earthquakes. Understanding the influence of far-field postseismic deformation on the southern Arizona strain rate field could have implications for other regions of diffuse intracontinental deformation in proximity to frequently rupturing large magnitude plate boundary faults.