Abstract

This paper demonstrates that high-gain, high-frequency portable seismographs operated for short intervals can provide unique data on the details of the current tectonic activity in a very small area. Five high-frequency, high-gain seismographs were operated at 25 sites along the coast of northern California during the summer of 1968. Eighty per cent of 160 microearthquakes located in the Cape Mendocino area occurred at depths between 15 and 35 km in a well-defined, horizontal seismic layer. These depths are significantly greater than those reported for other areas along the San Andreas fault system in California. Many of the earthquakes of the Cape Mendocino area occurred in sequences that have approximately the same magnitude versus length of faulting characteristics as other California earthquakes.

Consistent first-motion directions are recorded from microearthquakes located within suitably chosen subdivisions of the active area. Composite fault plane solutions indicate that right-lateral movement prevails on strike-slip faults that radiate from Cape Mendocino northwest toward the Gorda basin. This is evidence that the Gorda basin is undergoing internal deformation. Inland, east of Cape Mendocino, a significant component of thrust faulting prevails for all the composite fault plane solutions. Thrusting is predominant in the fault plane solution of the June 26 1968 earthquake located along the Gorda escarpement. In general, the pattern of slip is consistent with a north-south crustal shortening.

The Gorda escarpment, the Mattole River Valley, and the 1906 fault break northwest of Shelter Cove define a sharp bend that forms a possible connection between the Mendocino escarpment and the San Andreas fault. The distribution of hypocenters, relative travel times of P waves, and focal mechanisms strongly indicate that the above three features are surface expressions of an important structural boundary. The sharp bend in this boundary, which is concave toward the southwest, would tend to lock the dextral slip along the San Andreas fault and thus cause the regional north-south compression observed at Cape Mendocino.

The above conclusions support the hypothesis that dextral strike-slip motion along the San Andreas fault is currently being taken up by slip along the Mendocino escarpment as well as by slip along northwest trending faults in the Gorda basin.

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