Trenching, microgeomorphic mapping, and tree ring analysis provide information on timing of paleoearthquakes and behavior of the San Andreas fault in the Santa Cruz mountains. At the Grizzly Flat site alluvial units dated at 1640-1659 A.D., 1679-1894 A.D., 1668-1893 A.D., and the present ground surface are displaced by a single event. This was the 1906 surface rupture. Combined trench dates and tree ring analysis suggest that the penultimate event occurred in the mid-1600s, possibly in an interval as narrow as 1632-1659 A.D. There is no direct evidence in the trenches for the 1838 or 1865 earthquakes, which have been proposed as occurring on this part of the fault zone. In a minimum time of about 340 years only one large surface faulting event (1906) occurred at Grizzly Flat, in contrast to previous recurrence estimates of 95-110 years for the Santa Cruz mountains segment. Comparison with dates of the penultimate San Andreas earthquake at sites north of San Francisco suggests that the San Andreas fault between Point Arena and the Santa Cruz mountains may have failed either as a sequence of closely timed earthquakes on adjacent segments or as a single long rupture similar in length to the 1906 rupture around the mid-1600s. The 1906 coseismic geodetic slip and the late Holocene geologic slip rate on the San Francisco peninsula and southward are about 50-70% and 70% of their values north of San Francisco, respectively. The slip gradient along the 1906 rupture section of the San Andreas reflects partitioning of plate boundary slip onto the San Gregorio, Sargent, and other faults south of the Golden Gate. If a mid-1600s event ruptured the same section of the fault that failed in 1906, it supports the concept that long strike-slip faults can contain master rupture segments that repeat in both length and slip distribution. Recognition of a persistent slip rate gradient along the northern San Andreas fault and the concept of a master segment remove the requirement that lower slip sections of large events such as 1906 must fill in on a periodic basis with smaller and more frequent earthquakes.
Additional publication details
Paleoseismic investigations in the Santa Cruz mountains, California: Implications for recurrence of large-magnitude earthquakes on the San Andreas fault