Is stress accumulating on the creeping section of the San Andreas fault?


  • K. M. Johnson

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA
    • Corresponding author: K. M. Johnson, Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, 1001 E. 10th St., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. (

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[1] The creeping section of the San Andreas fault (CSAF) in central California is a proposed barrier to propagation of large earthquakes. Yet, recent studies show that the creeping section is not entirely uncoupled but is accumulating slip deficit at a rate equivalent to a Mw=7.2–7.4 earthquake every 150years. A critical piece to understanding earthquake potential on the CSAF is determining whether slip deficit is occurring with stress accumulation on stick‒slip regions or without stress accumulation on stable‒sliding regions shadowed by surrounding locked areas. We use a physical model to estimate the spatial distribution of locked, stress‒accumulating areas of the fault constrained by surface creep rate measurements and GPS‒derived velocities. We find that the area of the fault accumulating stress, if ruptured every 150years, would release slip equivalent to at most a Mw=6.75 earthquake, significantly less than the Mw=7.2–7.4, 150year equivalent total slip deficit rate.