Characterization of Damage in Sandstones along the Mojave Section of the San Andreas Fault: Implications for the Shallow Extent of Damage Generation

  • Ory Dor
  • Judith S. Chester
  • Yehuda Ben-Zion
  • James N. Brune
  • Thomas K. Rockwell
Part of the Pageoph Topical Volumes book series (PTV)


Following theoretical calculations that suggest shallow generation of rock damage during an earthquake rupture, we measure the degree of fracture damage in young sedimentary rocks from the Juniper Hills Formation (JHF) that were displaced 21 km along the Mojave section of San Andreas Fault (SAF) and were not exhumed significantly during their displacement. In exposures adjacent to the fault, the JHF typically displays original sedimentary fabrics and little evidence of bulk shear strain at the mesoscopic scale. The formation is, however, pervasively fractured at the microscopic scale over a zone that is about a 100 m wide on the southwest side of the SAF near Little Rock. The abundance of open fractures, the poor consolidation, and the shallow inferred burial depth imply that the damage was generated close to the surface of the Earth. The spatial correlation of this damage with a seismically active trace of the SAF suggests that it was generated by SAF slip events that by assumption were of a seismic nature throughout the displacement history of the JHF. Thus the JHF provides a very shallow upper bound for the generation of brittle damage in a seismic fault zone. The fracture fabric is characterized by preferred orientations of fractures that split grains between contact points and is consistent with overall deformation under directed compression. However, the available results cannot be used to distinguish between proposed off-fault damage mechanisms. Fracture orientations are compatible with a maximum compressive stress oriented at a high angle to the fault at about 10 m, and at a lower, more variable angle farther away from the fault. The fracture distribution and fabric are consistent with observations made of the microscale damage characteristics of the Hungry Valley Formation in the northwestern section of the SAF in the Mojave, and with previous observations of exhumed, ancestral strands of the SAF.

Key words

Fault-zone structure rock damage San Andreas fault earthquake rupture mechanism mode I fractures Sedimentary rocks 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barrows, A.G., Kahle, J.E., and Beeby, D.J. (1985), Earthquake Hazard and tectonic history of the San Andreas fault zone, Los Angeles County, California, Open File report 85-10 LA., California Department of Conservation, Division of Mines and Geology.Google Scholar
  2. Barrows, A.G. (1980), Geologic map of the San Andreas fault zone and adjoining terrains, Juniper Hills and vicinity, Los Angeles County, California, California Division of Mines and Geology Open-file Report 80-2 LA, map scale 1:9000.Google Scholar
  3. Barrows, A.G. (1980), Geology of the San Andreas fault zone and adjoining terrains, Juniper Hills and vicinity, Los Angeles County, California, California Division of Mines and Geology Open-file Report 85-LA.Google Scholar
  4. Ben-Zion (2001).Google Scholar
  5. Ben-Zion, Y. and Huang, Y. (2002), Dynamic rupture on an interface between a compliant fault zone layer and a stiffer surrounding solid, J. Geophys. Res. 107, 2042, doi: 10.1029/2001JB000254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ben-Zion, Y. and Shi, Z. (2005), Dynamic rupture on a material interface with spontaneous generation of plastic strain in the bulk. Earth. Planet. Sci. Lett. 236, 486–496, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2005.03.025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blythe, A.E., House, M.A., and Spotila, J.A. (2002), Low temperature thermochronology of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains, southern California: Constraining structural evolution, Geol. Soc. Am. Special Paper 365, 231–250.Google Scholar
  8. Brune, J.N. (2001), Fault normal dynamic loading and unloading: an explanation for “non-gouge” rock powder and lack of fault-parallel shear bands along the San Andreas fault, EOS Trans. Am. Geophys. Union, 82, Abstract.Google Scholar
  9. Brune, J. N., Brown, S., and Johnson P.A. (1993), Rupture mechanism and interface separation in foam rubber models of earthquakes; a possible solution to the heat flow paradox and the paradox of large overthrusts, Tectonophysics 218, 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chester, F.M. and Chester, J.S. (2000), Stress and deformation along wavy frictional faults, J. Geophys. Res. 105, 23,421–23,430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chester, F.M., Chester, J.S., Kirschner, D.L., Schulz, S.E., and Evans, J.P. Structure of large-displacement strikeslip fault zones in the brittle continental crust. In (Karner, Gary D., Taylor, Brian, Driscoll, Neal W., Kohlstedt, David L., eds.), Rheology and Deformation in the Lithosphere at Continental Margins, (Columbia University Press, New York, 2004b) MARGINS Theoretical and Experimental Earth Science Series 1, pp. 223–260.Google Scholar
  12. Chester, J.S., Lenz, S.C., Chester, F.M., and Lang, R.A. (2004a), Mechanisms of compaction of quartz sand at diagenetic conditions, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 220, 435–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crowell, J.C. (1982). The Pliocene Hungry Valley Formation, Ridge Basin, southern California. In (Crowell, J.C., and Link, M.H., eds.) Geologic History of Ridge Basin, Southern California, (Los Angeles, Pacific Section, Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, 1982), pp. 143–150.Google Scholar
  14. Dor, O., Ben-Zion, Y., Rockwell, T.K., and Brune, J.N. (2006a), Pulverized Rocks in the Mojave section of the San Andreas FZ, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 245, 642–654, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2006.03.034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dor, O., Rockwell, T.K., and Ben-Zion, Y. (2006b), Geologic observations of damage asymmetry in the structure of the San Jacinto, San Andreas and Punchbowl faults in southern California: A possible indicator for preferred rupture propagation direction, Pure Appl. Geophys. 163, doi 10.1007/s00024-005-0023-9.Google Scholar
  16. Di Toro, G., Nielsen, S., and Pennacchioni, G. (2005), Earthquake rupture frozen in exhumed ancient faults. Nature 436, 1009–1012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frazier, C.F. and Graham, R.C. (2000), Pedogenic transformation of fractured granitic bedrock, Southern California, Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 64, 2057–2069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gallagher, J.J., Friedman, M., Handin, J., and Sowers, G.M. (1974), Experimental studies relating to microfracture in sandstone, Tectonophysics 21, 203–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hamiel, Y. Liu, Y., Lyakhovsky, V., Ben-Zion, Y., and Lockner, D. (2004), A Visco-elastic damage model with applications to sTable and unsTable fracturing, Geophys. J. Int. 159, 1155–1165, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2004.02452.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kahle, J.E. (1979), Geology and fault activity of the San Andreas fault zone between Quail Lake and Three Points, Los Angeles County, California, California Division of Mines and Geology Open-File Report 79-3 LA, 42 p., 5 plates, map scale 1:12,000.Google Scholar
  21. Kenny, M. (2000), Quaternary uplift of the eastern San Gabriel Mountains: A case for crystalline basement rock folding. 2000 AAPG Pacific Section and Western Region Society of Petroleum Engineers Meeting; abstracts AAPG Bulletin 84, 6, 878, doi: 10.1306/A9673770-1738-11D7-8645000102C1865D.Google Scholar
  22. Laubach, S.E. (1997), A method to detect natural fracture strike in sandstones, Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geologist Bull. 81, 604–623.Google Scholar
  23. Li, Y.-G., Leary, P.C., Aki, K., and Malin, P. (1990), Seismic trapped modes in the Orville and San Andreas Fault zones, Science 249, 763–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lyakhovsky, V., Ben-Zion, Y., and Agnon, A. (1997), Distributed damage, faulting and friction, J. Geophys. Res. 102, 27, 635–27, 649.Google Scholar
  25. Lyakhovsky, V. and Ben-Zion, Y. (2008), Scaling relations of earthquakes and aseismic deformation in a damage rheology model. Geophys. J. Int. 172, 651–662, doi: 10.1111/j. 1365-246X.2007.03652.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Miller and Downs (1974).Google Scholar
  27. Peng, Z., Ben-Zion, Y., Michael, A. J., and Zhu, L. (2003), Quantitative analysis of seismic trapped waves in the rupture zone of the 1992 Landers, California earthquake: Evidence for a shallow trapping structure, Geophys. J. Int. 155, 1021–1041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Powell, R.E., and Weldon, R.J. (1992), Evolution of the San Andreas fault, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 20, 431–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ramirez, V.R. (1983). Hungry Valley Formation: evidence for 220 kilometers of post Miocene offset on the San Andreas fault In (Andersen and Rymer eds) Tectonics and Sedimentation along Faults of the San Andreas System, Soc. Econ. Paleontol. and Mineral., pp. 33–44.Google Scholar
  30. Rice, J. R., Sammis, C. G., and Parsons, R. (2005), Off-fault secondary failure induced by a dynamic slip pulse, Seismol. Soc. Am. Bull. 95, 109–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rockwell et al. (2009), Granulometric and mineralogical properties of pulverized rocks from Tejon Pass on the San Andreas Fault and from Tejon Ranch on the Garlock Fault, California. Pure Appl. Geophys., in press.Google Scholar
  32. Scholz, C.H., Dawers, N.H., Yu, J.Z., Anders, M.H., and Cowie, P.A., (1993), Fault growth and fault scaling laws: Preliminary results, J. Geophys. Res. 98, 21951–21961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schultz, S.E. and Evans, J.P. (2000), Mesoscopic structure of the Punchbowl Fault, Southern California and the geologic and geophysical structure of active strike slip faults, J. Struct. Geol. 913–930.Google Scholar
  34. Sibson, R. H. (1986), Brecciation processes in fault zone: Inferences from earthquake rupturing, Pure Appl. Geophys 124, 159–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Spotila, J., House, M., Niemi, N., Brady, R., Oskin, M. and Buscher, J. (2007), Patterns of bedrock uplift along the San Andreas fault and implications for mechanisms of transpression. In (Till, A., Roeske, S., Foster, D., and Sample, J., eds.), Uplift and Extension along Continental Strike-slip Faults, Geol. Soc. Am. Special Paper 434, pp. 15–33.Google Scholar
  36. Sprunt, E.S. and Nur, A. (1979), Microcracking and healing in granites: new evidence from Cathodoluminiescence, Science, 205, 405, 495–497, doi: 10.1126/science.205.4405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tuttle, O.F. (1949), Structural petrology of planes of liquid inclusions, J. Geology, 57, 331–356; Pure Appl. Geophys, 124, 159–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Vermilye, J.M. and Scholz, C. H. (1998), The process zone: A microstructural view of fault growth, J. Geophys. Res. 103, 12223–12237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Weber, F.H. Jr. (1999), Right-lateral displacement of Pleistocene sedimentary deposits along the San Andreas Fault, Palmdale to Cajon Pass, Southern California, USGS, Final Technical Report 103, 4 sheets.Google Scholar
  40. Weldon, R., Scharer, K., Fumal, T. and Biasi, G. (2004), Wrightwood and the earthquake cycle: What a long recurrence record tells us about how faults work, GSA Today, 14, 9, doi: 10.1130/1052-5173(2004)014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wilson, J.E., Chester, J.S. and Chester, F.M. (2003), Microfracture analysis of fault growth and wear processes, Punchbowl Fault, San Andreas System, California, J. Struct. Geol. 25, 1855–1873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wilson, B., Dewers, T., Reches, Z., and Brune, J. (2005), Particle size and energetics of gouge from earthquake rupture zones: Nature, 434, 749–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ory Dor
    • 1
    • 5
  • Judith S. Chester
    • 2
  • Yehuda Ben-Zion
    • 1
  • James N. Brune
    • 3
  • Thomas K. Rockwell
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geology and GeophysicsTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Nevada Seismological LaboratoryUniversity of NevadaRenoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Geological SciencesSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  5. 5.Department of Geological SciencesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

Personalised recommendations