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The accommodation of relative motion at depth on the San Andreas Fault System in California


  • William H. Prescott,

  • Amos Nur


Plate motion below the seismogenic layer along the San Andreas fault system in California is generally assumed to occur by aseismic slip along a deeper extension of the fault. It is also possible that below the seismogenic layer, deformation is distributed laterally over a zone. Several observed features of the San Andreas fault in California have implications about the mode of accommodation of relative motion along the plate boundary beneath the seismogenic zone: the shallow depth of all earthquakes in California, the depth to which coseismic slip occurred during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the broad zone of strain accumulation, the broad heat flow anomaly, and the existence of widely separated parallel faults. The observations strongly imply that below the seismogenic zone, relative motion is distributed over a zone and occurs by inelastic flow rather than by aseismic slip on discrete fault planes. The existence of multiple faults further suggests that tractions at the base of the brittle layer are significant over time periods of years to hundreds of years.

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