Geologic data suggest that the Coachella Valley segment of the southern San Andreas fault (southern California, USA) is past its average recurrence time period. At its northern edge, this right-lateral fault segment branches into the Mission Creek and Banning strands of the San Andreas fault. Depending on how rupture propagates through this region, there is the possibility of a throughgoing rupture that could lead to the channeling of damaging seismic energy into the Los Angeles Basin. The fault structures and potential rupture scenarios on these two strands differ significantly, which highlights the need to determine which strand provides a more likely rupture path and the circumstances that control this rupture path. In this study, we examine the effect of different assumptions about fault geometry and initial stress pattern on the dynamic rupture process to test multiple rupture scenarios and thus investigate the most likely path(s) of a rupture that starts on the Coachella Valley segment. We consider three types of fault geometry based on the Southern California Earthquake Center Community Fault Model, and we create a three-dimensional finite-element mesh for each of them. These three meshes are then incorporated into the finite-element method code FaultMod to compute a physical model for the rupture dynamics. We use a slip-weakening friction law, and consider different assumptions of background stress, such as constant tractions and regional stress regimes with different orientations. Both the constant and regional stress distributions show that rupture from the Coachella Valley segment is more likely to branch to the Mission Creek than to the Banning fault strand. The fault connectivity at this branch system seems to have a significant impact on the likelihood of a throughgoing rupture, with potentially significant impacts for ground motion and seismic hazard both locally and in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY-NC license.
This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.