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Stafford fault system: 120 million year fault movement history of northern Virginia

By
David S. Powars
David S. Powars
U.S. Geological Survey, MS 926A, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192, USA
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Rufus D. Catchings
Rufus D. Catchings
U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, MS 977, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA
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J. Wright Horton, Jr.
J. Wright Horton, Jr.
U.S. Geological Survey, MS 926A, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192, USA
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J. Stephen Schindler
J. Stephen Schindler
U.S. Geological Survey, MS 926A, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192, USA
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Milan J. Pavich
Milan J. Pavich
U.S. Geological Survey, MS 926A, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2015

The Stafford fault system, located in the mid-Atlantic coastal plain of the eastern United States, provides the most complete record of fault movement during the past ~120 m.y. across the Virginia, Washington, District of Columbia (D.C.), and Maryland region, including displacement of Pleistocene terrace gravels. The Stafford fault system is close to and aligned with the Piedmont Spotsylvania and Long Branch fault zones. The dominant southwest-northeast trend of strong shaking from the 23 August 2011, moment magnitude Mw 5.8 Mineral, Virginia, earthquake is consistent with the connectivity of these faults, as seismic energy appears to have traveled along the documented and proposed extensions of the Stafford fault system into the Washington, D.C., area. Some other faults documented in the nearby coastal plain are clearly rooted in crystalline basement faults, especially along terrane boundaries. These coastal plain faults are commonly assumed to have undergone relatively uniform movement through time, with average slip rates from 0.3 to 1.5 m/m.y. However, there were higher rates during the Paleocene–early Eocene and the Pliocene (4.4–27.4 m/m.y), suggesting that slip occurred primarily during large earthquakes. Further investigation of the Stafford fault system is needed to understand potential earthquake hazards for the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., area. The combined Stafford fault system and aligned Piedmont faults are ~180 km long, so if the combined fault system ruptured in a single event, it would result in a significantly larger magnitude earthquake than the Mineral earthquake. Many structures most strongly affected during the Mineral earthquake are along or near the Stafford fault system and its proposed northeastward extension.

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GSA Special Papers

The 2011 Mineral, Virginia, Earthquake, and Its Significance for Seismic Hazards in Eastern North America

J. Wright Horton, Jr.
J. Wright Horton, Jr.
U.S. Geological Survey, MS 926A, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192, USA
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Martin C. Chapman
Martin C. Chapman
Department of Geosciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 4044 Derring Hall, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA
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Russell A. Green
Russell A. Green
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (MC 0105), 120B Patton Hall, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 750 Drillfield Drive, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA
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The Geological Society of America
Volume
509
ISBN print:
9780813725093
Publication date:
January 01, 2015

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