Active fold-and-thrust belts can potentially accommodate large-magnitude earthquakes, so understanding the structure in such regions has both societal and scientific importance. Recent studies have provided evidence for large earthquakes in the Western Transverse Ranges of California, USA. However, the diverse set of conflicting structural models for this region highlights the lack of understanding of the subsurface geometry of faults. A more robust structural model is required to assess the seismic hazard of the Western Transverse Ranges. Toward this goal, we developed a forward structural model using Trishear in MOVE® to match the first-order structure of the Western Transverse Ranges, as inferred from surface geology, subsurface well control, and seismic stratigraphy. We incorporated the full range of geologic observations, including vertical motions from uplifted fluvial and marine terraces, as constraints on our kinematic forward modeling. Using fault-related folding methods, we predicted the geometry and sense of slip of the major faults at depth, and we used these structures to model the evolution of the Western Transverse Ranges since the late Pliocene. The model predictions are in good agreement with the observed geology. Our results suggest that the Western Transverse Ranges comprises a southward-verging imbricate thrust system, with the dominant faults dipping as a ramp to the north and steepening as they shoal from ∼16°–30° at depth to ∼45°–60° near the surface. We estimate ∼21 km of total shortening since the Pliocene in the eastern part of the region, and a decrease of total shortening west of Santa Barbara down to 7 km near Point Conception. The potential surface area of the inferred deep thrust ramp is up to 6000 km2, which is of sufficient size to host the large earthquakes inferred from paleoseismic studies in this region.

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