Seismic activity in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area may be associated with various mapped faults that locally offset volcanic basement of Eocene age and younger. This volcanic basement is concealed in most places by young deposits, vegetation, and urban development. The U.S. Geological Survey conducted an aeromagnetic survey in September 1992 to investigate the extent of these mapped faults and possibly to help identify other seismic and volcanic hazards in the area. The survey was flown approximately 240 m above terrain, along flight lines spaced 460 m apart, and over an area about 50 × 50 km. These magnetic data indicate a pronounced northwest-striking magnetic lineation east of the Willamette River in downtown Portland associated with a fault concealed beneath Quaternary sedimentary deposits and previously inferred from shallow well data. The magnetic lineation confirms the existence of the fault and suggests that it has had a prolonged history: (1) Although well data indicate <200 m of vertical offset of underlying volcanic basement, models based on the aeromagnetic data from downtown Portland suggest reverse faulting with up to 1 km of offset deeper in the section. (2) The magnetic lineation associated with this fault extends southeast to the Clackamas River drainage, a distance of 50 km and considerably beyond the mapped extent of the fault. A northwest-striking magnetic anomaly located southwest of the Tualatin Mountains corresponds closely with another mapped fault and with mixed reverse and strike-slip faulting during a seismic swarm (M ≤ 3) in 1991. We believe these and other anomalies in the aeromagnetic data reflect the Portland Hills fault zone, believed to be the southwestern boundary of a structural basin now occupied by Portland and Vancouver. The postulated northeastern boundary of the basin, the Frontal fault zone, is also evident, although less well represented in the aeromagnetic data. Aeromagnetic anomalies, geologic mapping, and earthquake focal-plane solutions demonstrate a complex deformational history in the Portland-Vancouver area since middle Miocene time that includes elements of compression, extension, and dextral slip. These complexities reflect Portland-Vancouver's unique position within a north-south transition in tectonic styles along the Cascadia margin, from compressional in the north to extensional in the south.

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