Abstract

Airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) topography reveals for the first time the trace of the Rodgers Creek fault (RCF) through the center of Santa Rosa, the largest city in the northern San Francisco Bay area. Vertical deformation of the Santa Rosa Creek floodplain expresses a composite pull‐apart basin beneath the urban cover that is part of a broader 1‐km‐wide right‐releasing bend in the fault. High‐resolution geophysical data illuminate subsurface conditions that may be responsible for the complex pattern of surface faulting, as well as for the distribution of seismicity and possibly for creep behavior. We identify a dense, magnetic basement body bounded by the RCF beneath Santa Rosa that we interpret as a strong asperity, likely part of a larger locked patch of the fault to the south. A local increase in frictional resistance associated with the basement body appears to explain (1) distributed fault‐normal extension above where the RCF intersects the body; (2) earthquake activity around the northern end of the body, notably the 1969 ML 5.6 and 5.7 events and aftershocks; and (3) creep rates on the RCF that are higher to the north of Santa Rosa than to the south. There is a significant probability of a major earthquake on the RCF in the coming decades, and earthquakes associated with the proposed asperity have the potential to release seismic energy into the Cotati basin beneath Santa Rosa, already known from damaging historical earthquakes to produce amplified ground shaking.

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