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Gravity anomaly and density structure of the San Andreas fault zone

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A densely spaced gravity survey across the San andreas fault zone was conducted near Bear Valley, about 180 km south of San Francisco, along a cross-section where a detailed seismic reflection profile was previously made byMcEvilly (1981). WithFeng andMcEvilly's velocity structure (1983) of the fault zone at this cross-section as a constraint, the density structure of the fault zone is obtained through inversion of the gravity data by a method used byParker (1973) andOldenburg (1974). Although the resulting density picture cannot be unique, it is better constrained and contains more detailed information about the structure of the fault than was previously possible. The most striking feature of the resulting density structure is a deeply seated tongue of low-density material within the fault zone, probably representing a wedge of fault gouge between the two moving plates, which projects from the surface to the base of the seismogenic zone. From reasonable assumptions concerning the density of the solid grains and the state of saturation of the fault zone the average porosity of this low-density fault gouge is estimated as about 12%. Stress-induced cracks are not expected to create so much porosity under the pressures in the deep fault zone. Large-scaled removal of fault-zone material by hydrothermal alteration, dissolution, and subsequent fluid transport may have occurred to produce this pronounced density deficiency. In addition, a broad, funnel-shaped belt of low density appears about the upper part of the fault zone, which probably represents a belt of extensively shattered wall rocks.

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Wang, C., Rui, F., Zhengsheng, Y. et al. Gravity anomaly and density structure of the San Andreas fault zone. PAGEOPH 124, 127–140 (1986).

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  • Density structure of the San Andreas fault zone