We utilize gravity and magnetic methods to investigate the regional geophysical setting of the Wells earthquake. In particular, we delineate major crustal structures that may have played a role in the location of the earthquake and discuss the geometry of a nearby sedimentary basin that may have contributed to observed ground shaking. The February 21, 2008 Mw 6.0 Wells earthquake, centered about 10 km northeast of Wells, Nevada, caused considerable damage to local buildings, especially in the historic old town area. The earthquake occurred on a previously unmapped normal fault and preliminary relocated events indicate a fault plane dipping about 55 degrees to the southeast. The epicenter lies near the intersection of major Basin and Range normal faults along the Ruby Mountains and Snake Mountains, and strike-slip faults in the southern Snake Mountains.
Regionally, the Wells earthquake epicenter is aligned with a crustal-scale boundary along the edge of a basement gravity high that correlates to the Ruby Mountains fault zone. The Wells earthquake also occurred near a geophysically defined strike-slip fault that offsets buried plutonic rocks by about 30 km. In addition, a new depth-to-basement map, derived from the inversion of gravity data, indicates that the Wells earthquake and most of its associated aftershock sequence lie below a small oval- to rhomboid-shaped basin, that reaches a depth of about 2 km. Although the basin is of limited areal extent, it could have contributed to increased ground shaking in the vicinity of the city of Wells, Nevada, due to basin amplification of seismic waves.
Additional publication details
Other Government Series
Geophysical setting of the February 21, 2008 Mw 6 Wells earthquake, Nevada, and implications for earthquake hazards
Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Special Publication