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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Geosciences

Year Degree Awarded

Summer 2014

First Advisor

Michele Cooke

Subject Categories

Geology

Abstract

This dissertation aims to understand fault system deformation using numerical models and analog experiments. In southern California, the southern Big Bend of the San Andreas fault (SAF) is a zone of transpression that accommodates deformation associated with the Pacific-North American plate boundary. Using three-dimensional boundary element method (BEM) models, I test the sensitivity of fault slip rates to a range of tectonic boundary conditions constrained by Global Positioning System (GPS) studies of the region (45–50 mm/yr and 320°– 325°). I have modified fault configurations derived from the Southern California Earthquake Center Community Fault Model of the San Gorgonio knot and the eastern California shear zone (ECSZ) to better represent the disconnected nature of active faults in southern California. The models with revised fault geometry produce slip rates that better match geologic strike-slip rates, thus validating the revisions. More northerly plate velocity (325°) produces greater transpression along the SAF system associated with greater uplift of the San Bernardino Mountains, greater reverse-slip rates along range bounding reverse thrust faults, lower strike-slip rates along the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, and greater strike-slip rates along the eastern California shear zone (ECSZ) and Garlock fault. These results suggest that the degree of regional transpression controls the partitioning of deformation between uplift and slip along both the SAF system and the ECSZ.

Along the San Bernardino strand of the SAF and across the ECSZ, geologic slip rates differ from those inverted from geodetic measurements, which may partly be due to inaccurate fault connectivity within geodetic models. I compare results from fault networks that follow mapped geologic traces and resemble those used in block model inversions, which connect the San Jacinto fault to the SAF near Cajon Pass and connect distinct faults within the ECSZ. The connection of the SAF with the San Jacinto fault decreases strike-slip rates along the SAF by up to 10% and increases strike-slip rates along the San Jacinto fault by up to 16%; however, slip rate changes are still within the large geologic ranges along the SAF. The insensitivity of modeled interseismic surface velocities near Cajon Pass to fault connection suggests that inverse models may utilize both an incorrect fault geometry and slip rate and still provide an excellent fit to interseismic geodetic data. Similarly, connection of faults within the ECSZ produces 36% greater cumulative strike-slip rates but less than 17% increase in interseismic velocity. Within the models that follow the mapped traces, off-fault deformation accounts for 40% ± 23% of the total strain across the ECSZ. This suggests that a significant portion of the discrepancy between the geologic and geodetically modeled slip rates in the ECSZ could be due to the geodetic inversion model assumption of zero permanent off-fault deformation. When using overconnected models to invert GPS for slip rates, the reduced off-fault deformation within the models can lead to overprediction of slip rates.

Analog models of sandbox experiments performed at the Universite de Cergy-Pontoise (UCP) shed light on the amount of work required to create faults (Wgrow) in coarse sand. Casagrande shear experiments calculate a Wgrow that is consistent with that calculated in the sandbox and both values scale properly to crustal calculations. Calculations of Wgrow are higher for thicker sand pack layer experiments. Utilizing different materials within the compressional sandbox (GA39 sand and glass beads) shows the control of material properties on Wgrow as well. Numerical simulations of the UCP sandbox experiments test whether fault growth occurs via work minimization. To the first order, faults observed in sandbox experiments match the model predicted faults that minimize work in two-dimensional BEM simulations. The BEM models and work minimization shed light on fault growth path and timing.

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