Abstract

Transform faults have anomalously low rates of seismicity, but it’s not clear whether this reflects persistent earthquake-generating fault patches surrounded by creep, or the presence of creep and earthquakes at different times along the same patch. We use new, autonomous underwater vehicle high-resolution seafloor mapping to image the morphology of and offsets along transform fault segments in the Gulf of California, offshore Mexico. Fault zone structure imaged in this study shows evidence for the initiation and cessation of activity along individual fault splays over geologic time. A series of six identically offset depositional fans evidence 21–23 m of slip along the main transform fault, which could not have been produced by a single earthquake given the length of the transform. Rather, the lack of smaller-magnitude offsets indicates synchronous deposition and an absence of multiple slope failure–inducing earthquakes, which is consistent with the idea that creep and/or small-magnitude events occur asynchronously with large earthquakes in the slip history of a given transform fault segment.

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