During the Los Angeles Region Seismic Experiment (LARSE), a reflection/retraction survey was conducted along a line extending northeastward from Seal Beach, California, to the Mojave Desert, crossing the Los Angeles basin and San Gabriel Mountains. Shots and receivers were spaced most densely through the San Gabriel Mountains for the purpose of obtaining a combined reflection and refraction image of the crust in that area. A stack of common-midpoint (CMP) data reveals a bright reflective zone, 1-s thick, that dominates the stack and extends throughout most of the mid-crust of the San Gabriel Mountains. The top of this zone ranges in depth from 6 s (???18-km depth) in the southern San Gabriel Mountains to 7.5 s (???23-km depth) in the northern San Gabriel Mountains. The zone bends downward beneath the surface traces of the San Gabriel and San Andreas faults. It is brightest between these two faults, where it is given the name San Gabriel Mountains 'bright spot' (SGMBS). and becomes more poorly defined south of the San Gabriel fault and north of the San Andreas fault. The polarity of the seismic signal at the top of this zone is clearly negative, and our analysis suggests it represents a negative velocity step. The magnitude of the velocity step is approximately 1.7 km/s. In at least one location, an event with positive polarity can be observed 0.2 s beneath the top of this zone, indicating a thickness of the order of 500 m for the low-velocity zone at this location. Several factors combine to make the preferred interpretation of this bright reflective zone a young fault zone, possibly a 'master' decollement. (1) It represents a significant velocity reduction. If the rocks in this zone contain fluids, such a reduction could be caused by a differential change in fluid pressure between the caprock and the rocks in the SGMBS; near-lithostatic fluid pressure is required in the SGMBS. Such differential changes are believed to occur in the neighborhood of active fault zones, where 'fault-valve' action has been postulated. Less likely alternative explanations for this velocity reduction include the presence of magma and a change in composition to serpentinite or metagraywacke. (2) It occurs at or near the brittle-ductile transition, at least in the southern San Gabriel Mountains, a possible zone of concentrated shear. (3) A thin reflection rising from its top in the southern San Gabriel Mountains projects to the hypocenter of the 1987 M 5.9 Whittier Narrows earthquake, a blind thrust-fault earthquake with one focal plane subparallel to the reflection. Alternatively, one could argue that the bends or disruptions in the reflective zone seen at the San Gabriel and San Andreas faults are actually offsets and that the reflective zone is therefore an older feature, possibly an older fault zone. ?? 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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The San Gabriel mountains bright reflective zone: Possible evidence of young mid-crustal thrust faulting in southern California