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Abstract

Exceptional examples of restraining and releasing bend structures along major strike-slip fault zones are found in the California continental Borderland. Erosion in the deep sea is diminished, thereby preserving the morphology of active oblique fault deformation. Long-lived deposition of turbidites and other marine sediments preserve a high-resolution geological record of fault zone deformation and regional tectonic evolution. Two large restraining bends with varied structural styles are compared to derive a typical morphology of Borderland restraining bends. A 60-km-long, 15° left bend in the dextral San Clemente Fault creates two primary deformation zones. The southeastern uplift involves ‘soft’ turbidite sediments and is expressed as a broad asymmetrical ridge with right-stepping en echelon anticlines and local pull-apart basins at minor releasing stepovers along the fault. The northwest uplift involves more rigid sedimentary and possibly igneous or metamorphic basement rocks creating a steep-sided, narrow and more symmetrical pop-up. The restraining bend terminates in a releasing stepover basin at the NW end, but curves gently into a transtensional releasing bend to the SE. Seismic stratigraphy indicates that the uplift and transpression along this bend occurred within Quaternary times. The 80-km-long, 30–40° left bend in the San Diego Trough–Catalina fault zone creates a large pop-up structure that emerges to form Santa Catalina Island. This ridge of igneous and metamorphic basement rocks has steep flanks and a classic ‘rhomboid’ shape. For both major restraining bends, and most others in the Borderland, the uplift is asymmetrical, with the principal displacement zone lying along one flank of the pop-up. Faults within the pop-up structure are very steep dipping and subvertical for the principal displacement zone. In most cases, a Miocene basin has been structurally inverted by the transpression. Development of major restraining bends offshore of southern California appears to result from reactivation of major transform faults associated with Mid-Miocene oblique rifting during the evolution of the Pacific–North America plate boundary. Seismicity offshore of southern California demonstrates that deformation along these major strike-slip fault systems continues today.

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