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Gravity data provide insights on the complex tectonic history and structural development of the northern Los Angeles Basin region. The Hollywood basin appears to be a long (> 12 km), narrow (up to 2 km wide) trough lying between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Wilshire arch. In the deepest parts of the Hollywood basin, the modeled average thickness ranges from roughly 250 m if filled with only Quaternary sediments to approximately 600 m if Pliocene sediments are also present. Interpretations of conflicting drill hole data force us to consider both these scenarios. Because of the marked density contrast between the dense Santa Monica Mountains and the low-density sediments in the Los Angeles Basin, the gravity method is particularly useful in mapping the maximum displacement along the Santa Monica-Hollywood-Raymond fault zone. The gravity-defined Santa Monica–Hollywood fault zone deviates, in places, from the mapped active fault and fold scarps located with boreholes and trenching and by geomorphological mapping by Dolan and others (1997). Our models suggest that the Santa Monica–Hollywood fault zone dips northward approximately 63°. Three structural models are considered for the origin of the Hollywood basin: pull-apart basin, flexural basin, and a basin related to a back limb of a major fold. Although our preferred structural model involves flexure, the available geologic and geophysical data do not preclude contributions to the deepening of the basin from one or both of the other two models.
Of particular interest is that the distribution of red-tagged buildings and structures damaged by the Northridge earthquake has a strong spatial correlation with the axis of the Hollywood basin defined by the gravity data. Several explanations for this correlation are explored, but two preferred geologic factors for the amplification of ground motion besides local site effects are (1) focussing of energy by a fault along the axis of the Hollywood basin and (2) focussing effects related to differential refraction of seismic rays across the basin.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Implications for the formation of the Hollywood Basin from gravity interpretations of the northern Los Angeles Basin, California
U.S. Geological Survey
Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center