Rupture of the southern section of the San Andreas Fault, from the Coachella Valley to the Mojave Desert, is believed to be the greatest natural hazard facing California in the near future. With an estimated magnitude between 7.2 and 8.1, such an event would result in violent shaking, loss of life, and disruption of lifelines (freeways, aqueducts, power, petroleum, and communication lines) that would bring much of southern California to a standstill. As part of the Nation's efforts to prevent a catastrophe of this magnitude, a number of projects are underway to increase our knowledge of Earth processes in the area and to mitigate the effects of such an event.
One such project is the Salton Seismic Imaging Project (SSIP), which is a collaborative venture between the United States Geological Survey (USGS), California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). This project will generate and record seismic waves that travel through the crust and upper mantle of the Salton Trough. With these data, we will construct seismic images of the subsurface, both reflection and tomographic images. These images will contribute to the earthquake-hazard assessment in southern California by helping to constrain fault locations, sedimentary basin thickness and geometry, and sedimentary seismic velocity distributions. Data acquisition is currently scheduled for winter and spring of 2011.
The design and goals of SSIP resemble those of the Los Angeles Region Seismic Experiment (LARSE) of the 1990's. LARSE focused on examining the San Andreas Fault system and associated thrust-fault systems of the Transverse Ranges. LARSE was successful in constraining the geometry of the San Andreas Fault at depth and in relating this geometry to mid-crustal, flower-structure-like decollements in the Transverse Ranges that splay upward into the network of hazardous thrust faults that caused the 1971 M 6.7 San Fernando and 1987 M 5.9 Whittier Narrows earthquakes. The project also succeeded in determining the depths and seismic-velocity distributions of several sedimentary basins, including the Los Angeles Basin, San Fernando Valley, and Antelope Valley. These results advanced our ability to understand and assess earthquake hazards in the Los Angeles region.
In order to facilitate permitting and planning for the data collection phase of SSIP, in June of 2009 we set off calibration shots and recorded the seismic data with a variety of instruments at varying distances. We also exposed sections of buried clay drainage pipe near the shot points to determine the effect of seismic energy on the pipes. Clay drainage pipes are used by the irrigation districts in both the Coachella and Imperial Valleys to prevent ponding and remove salts and irrigation water. This report chronicles the calibration project. We present new near-source velocity data that are used to test the regression curves that were determined for the LARSE project. These curves are used to create setback tables to determine explosive charge size and for placement of shot points. We also found that our shots did not damage the irrigation pipes and that the ODEX drilling system did well in the clay rich soils of the Imperial Valley.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Seismic calibration shots conducted in 2009 in the Imperial Valley, southern California, for the Salton Seismic Imaging Project (SSIP)
U.S. Geological Survey
Earthquake Science Center, Menlo Park Science Center