Relationships among seismic velocity, metamorphism, and seismic and aseismic fault slip in the Salton Sea Geothermal Field region

Journal of Geophysical Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

The Salton Sea Geothermal Field is one of the most geothermally and seismically active areas in California and presents an opportunity to study the effect of high-temperature metamorphism on the properties of seismogenic faults. The area includes numerous active tectonic faults that have recently been imaged with active source seismic reflection and refraction. We utilize the active source surveys, along with the abundant microseismicity data from a dense borehole seismic network, to image the 3-D variations in seismic velocity in the upper 5 km of the crust. There are strong velocity variations, up to ~30%, that correlate spatially with the distribution of shallow heat flow patterns. The combination of hydrothermal circulation and high-temperature contact metamorphism has significantly altered the shallow sandstone sedimentary layers within the geothermal field to denser, more feldspathic, rock with higher P wave velocity, as is seen in the numerous exploration wells within the field. This alteration appears to have a first-order effect on the frictional stability of shallow faults. In 2005, a large earthquake swarm and deformation event occurred. Analysis of interferometric synthetic aperture radar data and earthquake relocations indicates that the shallow aseismic fault creep that occurred in 2005 was localized on the Kalin fault system that lies just outside the region of high-temperature metamorphism. In contrast, the earthquake swarm, which includes all of the M > 4 earthquakes to have occurred within the Salton Sea Geothermal Field in the last 15 years, ruptured the Main Central Fault (MCF) system that is localized in the heart of the geothermal anomaly. The background microseismicity induced by the geothermal operations is also concentrated in the high-temperature regions in the vicinity of operational wells. However, while this microseismicity occurs over a few kilometer scale region, much of it is clustered in earthquake swarms that last from hours to a few days and are localized near the MCF system.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Relationships among seismic velocity, metamorphism, and seismic and aseismic fault slip in the Salton Sea Geothermal Field region
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research
DOI 10.1002/2014JB011579
Volume 120
Issue 4
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 2600
Last page 2615
Country United States
Other Geospatial Salton Sea