We present evidence of 11-14 earthquakes that occurred between 3000 and 1500 B.C. on the San Andreas fault at the Wrightwood paleoseismic site. Earthquake evidence is presented in a novel form in which we rank (high, moderate, poor, or low) the quality of all evidence of ground deformation, which are called "event indicators." Event indicator quality reflects our confidence that the morphologic and sedimentologic evidence can be attributable to a ground-deforming earthquake and that the earthquake horizon is accurately identified by the morphology of the feature. In four vertical meters of section exposed in ten trenches, we document 316 event indicators attributable to 32 separate stratigraphic horizons. Each stratigraphic horizon is evaluated based on the sum of rank (Rs), maximum rank (Rm), average rank (Ra), number of observations (Obs), and sum of higher-quality event indicators (Rs>1). Of the 32 stratigraphic horizons, 14 contain 83% of the event indicators and are qualified based on the number and quality of event indicators; the remaining 18 do not have satisfactory evidence for further consideration. Eleven of the 14 stratigraphic horizons have sufficient number and quality of event indicators to be qualified as "probable" to "very likely" earthquakes; the remaining three stratigraphic horizons are associated with somewhat ambiguous features and are qualified as "possible" earthquakes. Although no single measurement defines an obvious threshold for designation as an earthquake horizon, Rs, Rm, and Rs>1 correlate best with the interpreted earthquake quality. Earthquake age distributions are determined from radio-carbon ages of peat samples using a Bayesian approach to layer dating. The average recurrence interval for the 10 consecutive and highest-quality earthquakes is 111 (93-131) years and individual intervals are ??50% of the average. With comparison with the previously published 14-15 earthquake record between A.D. 500 and present, we find no evidence to suggest significant variations in the average recurrence rate at Wrightwood during the past 5000 years.
Additional publication details
Paleoearthquakes on the southern San Andreas Fault, Wrightwood, California, 3000 to 1500 B.C.: A new method for evaluating paleoseismic evidence and earthquake horizons