New Insights into Strain Accumulation and Release in the Central and Northern Walker Lane, Pacific-North American Plate Boundary, California and Nevada, USA
AuthorBormann, Jayne Margret
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The Walker Lane is a 100 km-wide distributed zone of complex transtensional faulting that flanks the eastern margin of the Sierra Nevada. Up to 25% of the total Pacific-North American relative right-lateral plate boundary deformation is accommodated east of the Sierra Nevada, primarily in the Walker Lane. The results of three studies in the Central and Northern Walker Lane offer new insights into how constantly accumulating plate boundary shear strain is released on faults in the Walker Lane and regional earthquake hazards. This research is based on the collection and analysis of new of geologic and geodetic datasets. Two studies are located in the Central Walker Lane, where plate boundary deformation is accommodated on northwest trending right-lateral faults, east-northeast trending left-lateral faults, and north trending normal faults. In this region, a prominent set of left-stepping, en-echelon, normal fault-bounded basins between Walker Lake and Lake Tahoe fill a gap in Walker Lane strike slip faults. Determining how these basins accommodate shear strain is a primary goal of this research. Paleoseismic and neotectonic observations from the Wassuk Range fault zone in the Walker Lake basin record evidence for at least 3 Holocene surface rupturing earthquakes and Holocene/late Pleistocene vertical slip rates between 0.4-0.7 mm/yr on the normal fault, but record no evidence of right-lateral slip along the rangefront fault. A complementary study presents new GPS velocity data that measures present-day deformation across the Central Walker Lane and infers fault slip and block rotation rates using an elastic block model. The model results show a clear partitioning between distinct zones of strain accommodation characterized by (1) right-lateral translation of blocks on northwest trending faults, (2) left-lateral slip and clockwise block rotations between east and northeast trending faults, and (3) right-lateral oblique normal slip with minor clockwise block rotations on north trending faults. Block model results show that a component of right-lateral slip in the normal-fault bounded basins is required to adequately fit the GPS data.New GPS data from the Northern Walker Lane constrains present-day slip rates on the Mohawk Valley, Grizzly Valley, and Honey Lake fault zones. Block model results predict right-lateral slip rates of 2.2 ± 0.2 mm/yr for the Mohawk Valley fault and 1.1 ± 0.4 mm/yr for the Honey Lake fault. The GPS data do not require slip on the Grizzly Valley fault, although right-lateral slip rates up to 1.2 mm/yr are allowed without increasing the block model misfit. The present-day distribution of slip between the Honey Lake and Mohawk Valley faults is opposite that predicted by latest Quaternary and Holocene geologic slip rate estimates. A temporally variable Wallace-type strain release model that includes 104-year timescale variations in fault slip rate could reconcile both datasets.