A 5-km-long, high-resolution seismic imaging survey across the San Andreas fault (SAF) zone and the proposed San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) drill site near Parkfield, California, shows that velocities vary both laterally and vertically. Velocities range from <1.0 km/sec near the surface to as much as 4.8 km/sec at 750-m depth. The lowest velocities (<1.0 to ???3.0 km/sec) correspond to unconsolidated sediment, mudstone, and sandstone in the near surface, and the higher velocities (>4.0 km/sec) probably correspond to granitic rock of the Salinian block, which is exposed a few kilometers southwest of the SAF. The depth to the top of probable granitic rock varies laterally along the seismic profile but is about 600 m below the surface at the proposed SAFOD site. We observe a prominent, lateral low-velocity zone (LVZ) beneath and southwest of the surface trace of the SAF. The LVZ is about 1.5 km wide at 300-m depth but tapers to about 600 m wide at 750-m depth. At the maximum depth of the velocity model (750 m), the LVZ is centered approximately 400 m southwest of the surface trace of the SAF. Similar velocities and velocity gradients are observed at comparable depths on both sides of the LVZ, suggesting that the LVZ is anomalous relative to rocks on either side of it. Velocities within the LVZ are lower than those of San Andreas fault gouge, and the LVZ is also anomalous with respect to gravity, magnetic, and resistivity measurements. Because of its proximity to the surface trace of the SAF, it is tempting to suggest that the LVZ represents a zone of fractured crystalline rocks at depth. However, the LVZ instead probably represents a tectonic sliver of sedimentary rock that now rests adjacent to or encompasses the SAF. Such a sliver of sedimentary rock implies fault strands on both sides and possibly within the sliver, suggesting a zone of fault strands at least 1.5 km wide at a depth of 300 m, tapering to about 600 m wide at 750-m depth. Fluids within the sedimentary sliver are probably responsible for observed low-resistivity values.
Additional publication details
High-resolution seismic velocities and shallow structure of the San Andreas fault zone at Middle Mountain, Parkfield, California