Structure of the San Fernando Valley region, California: Implications for seismic hazard and tectonic history

V. E. Langenheim*, T. L. Wright, D. A. Okaya, R. S. Yeats, G. S. Fuis, K. Thygesen, H. Thybo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Industry seismic reflection data, oil test well data, interpretation of gravity and magnetic data, and seismic refraction deep-crustal profiles provide new perspectives on the subsurface geology of San Fernando Valley, home of two of the most recent damaging earthquakes in southern California. Seismic reflection data provide depths to Miocene-Quaternary horizons; beneath the base of the Late Miocene Modelo Formation are largely nonreflective rocks of the Middle Miocene Topanga and older formations. Gravity and seismic reflection data reveal the North Leadwell fault zone, a set of down-to-the-north faults that does not offset the top of the Modelo Formation; the zone strikes northwest across the valley, and may be part of the Oak Ridge fault system to the west. In the southeast part of the valley, the fault zone bounds a concealed basement high that influenced deposition of the Late Miocene Tarzana fan and may have localized damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Gravity and seismic refraction data indicate that the basin underlying San Fernando Valley is asymmetric, the north part of the basin (Sylmar subbasin) reaching depths of 5-8 km. Magnetic data suggest a major boundary at or near the Verdugo fault, which likely started as a Miocene transtensional fault, and show a change in the dip sense of the fault along strike. The northwest projection of the Verdugo fault separates the Sylmar subbasin from the main San Fernando Valley and coincides with the abrupt change in structural style from the Santa Susana fault to the Sierra Madre fault. The Simi Hills bound the basin on the west and, as defined by gravity data, the boundary is linear and strikes ~N45°E. That northeast-trending gravity gradient follows both the part of the 1971 San Fernando aftershock distribution called the Chatsworth trend and the aftershock trends of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. These data suggest that the 1971 San Fernando and 1994 Northridge earthquakes reactivated portions of Miocene normal faults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-572
Number of pages45
JournalGeosphere
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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