Apparent southward-dipping, reverse-fault zones are imaged to depths of about 1.5 km beneath Potrero Canyon, Los Angeles County, California. Based on their orientation and projection to the surface, we suggest that the imaged fault zones are extensions of the Oak Ridge fault. Geologic mapping by others and correlations with seismicity studies suggest that the Oak Ridge fault is the causative fault of the 17 January 1994 Northridge earthquake (Northridge fault). Our seismically imaged faults may be among several faults that collectively comprise the Northridge thrust fault system. Unusually strong shaking in Potrero Canyon during the Northridge earthquake may have resulted from focusing of seismic energy or co-seismic movement along existing, related shallow-depth faults. The strong shaking produced ground-surface cracks and sand blows distributed along the length of the canyon. Seismic reflection and refraction images show that shallow-depth faults may underlie some of the observed surface cracks. The relationship between observed surface cracks and imaged faults indicates that some of the surface cracks may have developed from nontectonic alluvial movement, but others may be fault related. Immediately beneath the surface cracks, P-wave velocities are unusually low (<400 m/sec), and there are velocity anomalies consistent with a seismic reflection image of shallow faulting to depths of at least 100 m. On the basis of velocity data, we suggest that unconsolidated soils (<800 m/sec) extend to depths of about 15 to 20 m beneath our datum (<25 m below ground surface). The underlying rocks range in velocity from about 1000 to 5000 m/sec in the upper 100 m. This study illustrates the utility of high-resolution seismic imaging in assessing local and regional seismic hazards.
Additional publication details
Faulting apparently related to the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake and possible co-seismic origin of surface cracks in Potrero Canyon, Los Angeles County, California