Seismic environment of the Burro Flats site, Ventura County, California: a brief, limited literature review

Open-File Report 73-360
Prepared on behalf of the Division of Reactor Development and Technology, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
By: , and 



A limited review of available literature suggests that the maximum horizontal ground acceleration at the Burro Flats site from earthquakes in the region could range from less than 0.1 to 0.49 g. A magnitude 8 earthquake on the nearby San Andreas fault could produce ground acceleration in the range 0.18 to 0.31 g, and an expectable larger earthquake on that fault could produce larger accelerations. Ground motion from possible smaller but closer earthquakes ranges up to 0.49 g for an earthquake of magnitude 6.5 on the adjacent "Burro Flats fault".

Estimation of these accelerations is dependent on determining the geologic environment of the site, the appropriate earthquake magnitudes to be assigned significant faults in that environment, and the attenuation of shaking between the earthquake epicenters and the site. The site lies within a tectonically active region--the historically active San Andreas fault is only 34 miles to the northeast, and lesser faults showing evidence of late Quaternary displacement are located closer to the site. Evidence for youthfulness of these lesser faults varies, and except for the active Newport-Inglewood zone and the Santa Ynez fault, they qualify as possible but as yet-unproven active faults. All known faults with appropriate length to site-distance ratios that are reasonably classed as late Quaternary faults are discussed, and are included as potential earthquake generators.

Earthquakes of appropriate magnitude to be assigned to each fault are determined by assuming rupture in one event of half the map length of the fault, and applying relations (determined by several authors) between earthquake magnitude and rupture length in historic events to determine magnitudes. These magnitudes are, for the purposes of this brief review, probably reasonable estimates of the capabilities of each fault, although earthquakes of larger magnitude are possible. Accelerations are then determined by assuming earthquakes of the above determined magnitude placed at the closest point to the site on the fault trace, and applying attenuation curves of three different authors.

Considerable uncertainty is inherent in the rough estimates of seismic accelerations made herein, for they are dependent on a chain of judgments, each of which, in itself, is uncertain. Present knowledge of the geology of the region is incomplete, so that geometry and structural relations of the faults are in part uncertain, and much evidence bearing on the youth of the faults has yet to be gathered and evaluated. Estimation of earthquake magnitude is also uncertain, and even assuming that approximate magnitude is known rather than estimated from fault length, estimates of maximum ground acceleration may differ greatly depending on the authority used. Further consideration of ground acceleration at the site might refine the estimates made herein and resolve the apparent contradictions between the authorities cited. Attention to frequency and duration of strong shaking would also be appropriate.

This study was undertaken at the request of A. J. Pressesky, Assistant Director for Nuclear Safety, Division of Reactor-Development and Technology, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, in March, 1969. It is based on a brief review of pertinent literature to which the authors had immediate access during the few weeks (April-May, 1969) available for report preparation. Because the report is limited both in scope and thoroughness, it must be considered no more than a first estimate of the tectonic and seismic environment of the Burro Flats site, and should not be considered sufficient, in itself, as a basis for design. The report is intended, however, to indicate the breadth of inquiry that is necessary in the consideration of ground acceleration at sites in California, and to indicate the incomplete status of geologic mapping and other geologic studies in the region. The report describes the tectonic environment of the Burro Flats site, discusses 10 pertinent faults individually, and presents possible earthquake magnitudes for those faults and resultant potential ground accelerations at the site.

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Seismic environment of the Burro Flats site, Ventura County, California: a brief, limited literature review
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 73-360
DOI 10.3133/ofr73360
Year Published 1969
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 35 p.
Country United States
State California
County Ventura County
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