After the 1987 Whittier Narrows and 1994 Northridge earthquakes revealed that blind thrust faults represent a significant threat to metropolitan Los Angeles, a network of 250 continuously recording global positioning system (GPS) stations was deployed to monitor displacements associated with deep slip on both blind and surface faults. Here we augment this GPS data with interferometric synthetic aperture radar imagery to take into account the deformation associated with groundwater pumping and strike-slip faulting. After removing these non-tectonic signals, we are left with 4.4 mm yr-1 of uniaxial contraction across the Los Angeles basin, oriented N 36??E (perpendicular to the major strike-slip faults in the area). This indicates that the contraction is primarily accommodated on thrust faults rather than on the northeast-trending strike-slip faults. We have found that widespread groundwater and oil pumping obscures and in some cases mimics the tectonic signals expected from the blind thrust faults. In the 40-km-long Santa Ana basin, groundwater withdrawal and re-injection produces 12 mm yr-1 of long-term subsidence, accompanied by an unprecedented seasonal oscillation of 55 mm in the vertical direction and 7 mm horizontally.
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Tectonic contraction across Los Angeles after removal of groundwater pumping effects