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Abs. Seismic Slip on an Oblique Detachment Fault at Low Angles
Eos Trans. AGU (2008)
  • Susanne U. Janecke, Utah State University
  • A. N. Steely
  • J. P. Evans

Pseudotachylytes are one of the few accepted indicators of seismic slip along ancient faults. Low-angle normal faults have produced few large earthquakes in historic times and low-angle normal faults (detachment faults) are typically severely misoriented relative to a vertical maximum compressive stress. As a result many geoscientists question whether low-angle normal faults produce earthquakes at low angles. Relationships in southern California show that a major low-angle normal-oblique fault slipped at low angles and produced large earthquakes. The exhumed Late Cenozoic West Salton detachment fault preserves spectacular fault- related pseudotachylytes along its fault plane and injected into its hanging wall and footwall. Composite pseudotachylyte zones are up to 1.25 m thick and persists over lateral distances of at least 10's of meters. Pseudotachylyte is common in most thin sections of damaged fault rocks with more than 20% (by volume) of cataclasite. We recognized the presence of original melt using numerous criteria: abundant spherulites in thin sections, injection structures at both the thin-section and outcrop scale, black aphanitic textures, quenched vein margins, variations in microcrystallite textures and/or size with respect to the vein margin, and glassy textures in hand sample. Multiple earthquakes are inferred to produce the layered "stratigraphy" in some exposures of pseudotachylytes. We infer that the West Salton detachment fault formed and slipped at low angles because it nearly perfectly reactivates a Cretaceous ductile thrust system at the half km scale and dips between 10 and 45 degrees. The about 30 degree NNE dip of the detachment fault on the north side of Yaqui Ridge is likely steeper than its dip during detachment slip because there is local steepening on the flanks of the Yaqui Ridge antiform in a contractional stepover of a crosscutting Quaternary San Felipe dextral fault zone. These relationships indicate a low dip on the detachment fault when the detachment was active, when it produced voluminous pseudotachylyte during eartquakes, and when the supradetachment basin above it received a large volume of sediment eroded from the pseudotachylyte-bearing parts of the damage zone. To interpret the pseudotachylyte as the product of slip across a detachment when it was dipping at least 45 degrees requires a sequence of events that is so unlikely that we reject it. There must have been seismic slip at low dip angles across the West Salton detachment fault. Our conclusion agrees with prior studies by John and Axen in the Chemehuevi and Whipple metamorphic core complex and increases the published catalogue of detachment faults that sport

  • Seismic slip,
  • oblique detachment,
  • fault line
Publication Date
January 1, 2008
Citation Information
Janecke, S.U., Steely, A.N., and Evans, J.P., 2008, Seismic Slip on an Oblique Detachment Fault at Low Angles: Eos Trans. AGU, 89(53), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract T53F-06.