Abstract

The southernmost ∼100 km of the San Andreas fault has not ruptured historically. It is imperative to determine its rupture history to better predict its future behavior. This paleoseismic investigation in Coachella, California, establishes a chronology of at least five and up to seven major earthquakes during the past ∼1100 yr. This chronology yields a range of average recurrence intervals between 116 and 221 yr, depending on assumptions, with a best-estimate average recurrence interval of 180 yr. The most recent earthquake occurred c.1690, more than 300 yr ago, suggesting that this stretch of the fault has accumulated a large amount of tectonic stress and is likely to rupture in the near future, assuming the fault follows a stress renewal model. This study also establishes the timing of the past 5–6 highstands of ancient Lake Cahuilla since A.D. 800. We found that earthquakes do not tend to occur at any particular stage in the lake cycle.

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