Abstract

We systematically mapped (scales >1:500) the surface rupture of the 4 April 2010 Mw (moment magnitude) 7.2 El Mayor-Cucapah earthquake through the Sierra Cucapah (Baja California, northwestern Mexico) to understand how faults with similar structural and lithologic characteristics control rupture zone fabric, which is here defined by the thickness, distribution, and internal configuration of shearing in a rupture zone. Fault zone thickness and master fault dip are strongly correlated with many parameters of rupture zone fabric. Wider fault zones produce progressively wider rupture zones and both of these parameters increase systematically with decreasing dip of master faults, which varies from 20° to 90° in our dataset. Principal scarps that accommodate more than 90% of the total coseismic slip in a given transect are only observed in fault sections with narrow rupture zones (<25 m). As rupture zone thickness increases, the number of scarps in a given transect increases, and the scarp with the greatest relative amount of coseismic slip decreases. Rupture zones in previously undeformed alluvium become wider and have more complex arrangements of secondary fractures with oblique slip compared to those with pure normal dip-slip or pure strike-slip. Field relations and lidar (light detection and ranging) difference models show that as magnitude of coseismic slip increases from 0 to 60 cm, the links between kinematically distinct fracture sets increase systematically to the point of forming a throughgoing principal scarp. Our data indicate that secondary faults and penetrative off-fault strain continue to accommodate the oblique kinematics of coseismic slip after the formation of a thoroughgoing principal scarp. Among the widest rupture zones in the Sierra Cucapah are those developed above buried low angle faults due to the transfer of slip to widely distributed steeper faults, which are mechanically more favorably oriented. The results from this study show that the measureable parameters that define rupture zone fabric allow for testing hypotheses concerning the mechanics and propagation of earthquake ruptures, as well as for siting and designing facilities to be constructed in regions near active faults.

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