The 1979 Imperial Valley, California, earthquake (Ms = 6.9) was recorded on the El Centro differential array, a 213-m-long linear array of 5 three-component digital accelerometers 5.6 km from the nearest tectonic surface rupture. Although absolute time was not recorded on the array elements, a relative time base was established using the main shock hypocentral P wave and the P and S waves from a later aftershock. A cross-correlation technique was used to measure the difference in arrival times of individual seismic waves in a moving 0.6 to 1.2 sec window at each array element, which would then be converted into the wave's slowness (1/velocity) along the array. When applied to the main shock vertical and horizontal accelerograms, results from both components of motion indicated that the early arriving energy came from a source to the south of the array, and the source of the energy moved rapidly to the north of the array during the strong shaking. The ground motions at the array elements were well correlated for about the first 11 sec of motion. These observations suggest that we have observed the initiation of rupture south of the array and its subsequent propagation along the fault to a position north of the array in about 10 sec, and that the energy was radiated from a fairly compact region around the rupture front. If the observed vertical and horizontal ground motions are assumed to be caused by P and S waves, respectively, then the observed slownesses show irregularities which can be interpreted as implying that the observed high-frequency ground motions originated at irregularly distributed regions on the fault surface, or that the rupture velocity was variable, or both. One possible interpretation of the data suggests that the rupture proceeded at near P-wave velocity over a 7-km-long section of fault. Average rupture velocities of about 2.7 to 3.2 km/sec at 8 km depth are consistent with the data, and 2.8 km/sec is weakly preferred under the assumption that rupture propagates at a fixed fraction of the shear velocity. The large vertical pulse, which had a peak acceleration of 1.7 g at E06, was emitted from the portion of the fault extending 25 to 30 km northwest of the hypocenter near Meloland overpass, and not from the point on the fault closest to the differential array. Nothing can be said about fault behavior southeast of the hypocenter.

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