Surface Response to Slip Along a Propagating Blind Thrust Fault Wheeler Ridge, California

Emily J. Kleber

Published December 1, 2015, SCEC Contribution #6203

Understanding topography developed above an active blind thrust fault is critical to quantifying the along-strike variability of the timing, magnitude, and rate of fault slip at depth. Hillslope and fluvial processes respond to growing topography such that the existing landscape is an indicator of constructional and destruction processes. Light detection and ranging (lidar) data provide a necessary tool for fine-scale quantitative understanding of the topography to understand the tectonic evolution of blind thrust faulting. In this thesis, lidar topographic data collected in 2014 are applied to a well-studied laterally propagating anticline developed above a blind thrust fault in order to assess the geomorphic response of along-strike variations in tectonic deformation. Wheeler Ridge is an asymmetric east-propagating anticline (10 km axis, 330 m topographic relief) above a north-vergent blind thrust fault at the northern front of the Transverse Ranges, Southern San Joaquin Valley, California. Wheeler Ridge is part of a thrust system initiating in the late Miocene and is known to have significant historic earthquakes occur (e.g., 1952 Mw 7.3 Kern County earthquake). Analysis of the lidar data enables quantitative assessment of four key geomorphic relationships that may be indicative of relative variation in local rock uplift. First, I observe remnant landforms in the youngest, easternmost section of Wheeler Ridge that indicate the erosional history of older deposits to the west. Second, I examine the central portion of Wheeler Ridge where drainages and hillslopes are closely tied to uplift rates. Third, I observe the major wind gap within which a series of knickpoints are aligned at a similar elevation and tie into the local depositional and uplift history. Finally, I survey the western section and specifically, the fold backlimb where high-resolution topography and field mapping indicate long ridgelines that may preserve the uplifted and tilted alluvial fan morphology. I address changing landforms along the fold axis to test whether backlimb interfluves are paleosurfaces or the result of post-tectonic erosional hillslope processes. This work will be paired with future geochronology to update the ages of uplifted alluvial fan deposits and better constrain the timing of along-strike uplift of Wheeler Ridge.

Kleber, E. J. (2015). Surface Response to Slip Along a Propagating Blind Thrust Fault Wheeler Ridge, California (Arizona State University, Tempe).