The faulting process of the San Fernando earthquake of February 9, 1971 has been investigated using the following seismic and geodetic data: vertical and horizontal displacements, strain and tilt changes, dynamic ground motions in the near-field, focal mechanism, spatial distribution of aftershocks and features of surface fault breaks. A synthetic study suggests that the earthquake was caused by thrust faulting with a slip of 233° to 244° over a fault plane with dimensions 19 by 14 km, dip 50° to 52° and strike N64° to 70°W, which ruptures the ground surface over a distance of about 12 km. The fracture initiating at the hypocenter of the main shock seems to have propagated radially over the fault plane with a velocity about 2.5 km/sec. A small dislocation less than 30 cm at initiation probably increased rapidly during propagation and reached 3.5 to 4 m at the ground surface.
A pronounced uplift and small subsidence of the ground north and south of the fault traces, and the overall pattern of the observed vertical and horizontal displacements can be explained well by the above model, but the recorded strain and tilt offsets are not always consistent with theoretical predictions. The wave forms and amplitudes for some of the integrated ground displacements from accelerograms at the Pacoima Dam and Pasadena are in fairly close agreement with those of the computed displacements. The seismic moment and stress drop of this earthquake were found to be 1.1 × 1026 dyne·cm and 40 to 65 bars, respectively.