We document several blind-thrust faults under the Los Angeles basin that, if active and seismogenic, are capable of generating large earthquakes (M = 6.3 to 7.3). Pliocene to Quaternary growth folds imaged in seismic reflection profiles record the existence, size, and slip rates of these blind faults. The growth structures have shapes characteristic of fault-bend folds above blind thrusts, as demonstrated by balanced kinematic models, geologic cross sections, and axial-surface maps. We interpret the Compton-Los Alamitos trend as a growth fold above the Compton ramp, which extends along strike from west Los Angeles to at least the Santa Ana River. The Compton thrust is part of a larger fault system, including a decollement and ramps beneath the Elysian Park and Palos Verdes trends. The Cienegas and Coyote Hills growth folds overlie additional blind thrusts in the Elysian Park trend that are not closely linked to the Compton ramp. Analysis of folded Pliocene to Quaternary strata yields slip rates of 1.4 ± 0.4 mm/yr on the Compton thrust and 1.7 ± 0.4 mm/yr on a ramp beneath the Elysian Park trend. Assuming that slip is released in large earthquakes, we estimate magnitudes of 6.3 to 6.8 for earthquakes on individual ramp segments based on geometric segment sizes derived from axial surface maps. Multiple-segment ruptures could yield larger earthquakes (M = 6.9 to 7.3). Relations among magnitude, coseismic displacement, and slip rate yield an average recurrence interval of 380 years for single-segment earthquakes and a range of 400 to 1300 years for multiple-segment events. If these newly documented blind thrust faults are active, they will contribute substantially to the seismic hazards in Los Angeles because of their locations directly beneath the metropolitan area.
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