Precariously balanced rocks and overturned transformers in the vicinity of the White Wolf fault provide constraints on ground motion during the 1952 Ms 7.7 Kern County earthquake, a possible analog for an anticipated large earthquake in the Los Angeles basin (Shaw et al., 2002; Dolan et al., 2003). On the northeast part of the fault preliminary estimates of ground motion on the footwall give peak accelerations considerably lower than predicted by standard regression curves. On the other hand, on the hanging-wall, there is evidence of intense ground shattering and lack of precarious rocks, consistent with the intense hanging-wall accelerations suggested by foam-rubber modeling, numerical modeling, and observations from previous thrust fault earthquakes. There is clear evidence of the effects of rupture directivity in ground motions on the hanging-wall side of the fault (from both precarious rocks and numerical simulations). On the southwest part of the fault, which is covered by sediments, the thrust fault did not reach the surface ("blind" thrust). Overturned and damaged transformers indicate significant transfer of energy from the hanging wall to the footwall, an effect that may not be as effective when the rupture reaches the surface (is not "blind"). Transformers near the up-dip projection of the fault tip have been damaged or overturned on both the hanging-wall and footwall sides of the fault. The transfer of energy is confirmed in a numerical lattice model and could play an important role in a similar situation in Los Angeles. We suggest that the results of this study can provide important information for estimating the effects of a large thrust fault rupture in the Los Angeles basin, specially given the fact that there is so little instrumental data from large thrust fault earthquakes.
Additional publication details
Precarious rock and overturned transformer evidence for ground shaking in the Ms 7.7 Kern County earthquake: An analog for disastrous shaking from a major thrust fault in the Los Angeles basin