Late Quaternary slip rate of the Central Sierra Madre fault, southern California: Implications for slip partitioning and earthquake hazard

Reed J. Burgette, Austin M. Hanson, Katherine M. Scharer, Tammy M. Rittenour, & Devin McPhillips

Published January 2020, SCEC Contribution #9965

The Sierra Madre fault system accommodates contraction within a large restraining bend area of the San Andreas fault along the northern margin of the Los Angeles metropolitan area in southern California. Reverse slip along this fault system during earthquakes controls growth of the San Gabriel Mountains and poses a significant seismic hazard to the region. Here, we measure the late Quaternary slip rate of the Central Sierra Madre fault (CSMF) using analysis of high-resolution topography combined with cosmogenic 10Be surface exposure dating and post-IR IRSL geochronology. We mapped terrace and fan surfaces from three drainages that cross the CSMF and correlate them based on deposit character and geomorphic position. Cosmogenic nuclide and luminescence ages are consistent amongst the three prominent surfaces offset ~5 to 28 m across the fault zone. Age estimates for these surfaces are 53 +21/-15 ka, 35 ± 9 ka, and 12 ± 5 ka based on data from two dating methods at three locations, refined by inset age relationships. Estimated slip for these geomorphic markers is more uncertain than the measured vertical separation due to uncertainties in fault dip and ranges from 7.5 +5.4/-3.1 m to 58.5 +46.3/-14.4 m. Incremental dip-slip rate estimates from different age surfaces and locations overlap within uncertainty, with median values ranging from 0.6 to 1.1 mm/yr. The average slip rate for all three generations of markers is 1.1 +1.1/-0.4 mm/yr. This late Quaternary slip rate for the CSMF is slower than estimates based on interseismic geodetic data, and emphasizes the importance of contraction distributed across multiple structures south of the Sierra Madre fault when assessed against the geodetic shortening budget. Despite being the central portion of the broader Sierra Madre fault system, the CSMF has a slip rate similar to or lower than neighboring sections, suggesting that slip transfer onto other nearby faults control the along-strike pattern of deformation rate. Paleoseismic evidence indicates that the last earthquake on the CSMF was in the early Holocene, and the slip rate we estimate suggests that the accumulated elastic strain could produce many meters of slip in future earthquakes.

Burgette, R. J., Hanson, A. M., Scharer, K. M., Rittenour, T. M., & McPhillips, D. (2020). Late Quaternary slip rate of the Central Sierra Madre fault, southern California: Implications for slip partitioning and earthquake hazard. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 530. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2019.115907.