A reanalysis of the available data for the 1966 Parkfield, California, earthquake (ML=512) suggests that although the ground breakage and aftershocks extended about 40 km along the San Andreas Fault, the initial dynamic rupture was only 20 to 25 km in length. The foreshocks and the point of initiation of the main event locate at a small bend in the mapped trace of the fault. Detailed analysis of the P-wave first motions from these events at the Gold Hill station, 20 km southeast, indicates that the bend in the fault extends to depth and apparently represents a physical discontinuity on the fault plane. Other evidence suggests that this discontinuity plays an important part in the recurrence of similar magnitude 5 to 6 earthquakes at Parkfield.

Analysis of the strong-motion records suggests that the rupture stopped at another discontinuity in the fault plane, an en-echelon offset near Gold Hill that lies at the boundary on the San Andreas Fault between the zone of aseismic slip and the locked zone on which the great 1857 earthquake occurred. Foreshocks to the 1857 earthquake occurred in this area (Sieh, 1978), and the epicenter of the main shock may have coincided with the offset zone. If it did, a detailed study of the geological and geophysical character of the region might be rewarding in terms of understanding how and why great earthquakes initiate where they do.

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