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Tectonics in Nevada and Southern California: Subsidence of the Ediacaran Johnnie Formation, Cumulative Offset Along the Lavic Lake Fault, and Geomorphic Surface Development Along the Southern San Andreas Fault


Witkosky, Rebecca Amber (2019) Tectonics in Nevada and Southern California: Subsidence of the Ediacaran Johnnie Formation, Cumulative Offset Along the Lavic Lake Fault, and Geomorphic Surface Development Along the Southern San Andreas Fault. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/XTZX-X107.


While we know the ages and tectonic histories of many critical geologic events in the history of the Earth, there are still questions regarding the timing of key events and structures that have and continue to influence life on this planet. This thesis includes three separate studies in Nevada and southern California: two potential new methods for measuring/organizing geologic time, and also an analysis of the long-term displacement along an active fault in the eastern California shear zone. In Chapter II, we used tectonic subsidence modeling to find that the Shuram carbon isotopic excursion in the Ediacaran Johnnie Formation likely occurred from 585-579 Ma, and that incision of the Rainstorm Member shelf occurred during the 579 Ma Gaskiers glaciation. The pre-Shuram-excursion chemostratigraphic carbon isotope profiles from the Khufai Formation in Oman and the type locality of the Johnnie Formation in Nevada are both generally positive and therefore possibly correlative. In Chapter III, we determined the cumulative tectonic offset along the Lavic Lake fault, an active structure that ruptured with >5 m of coseismic slip in the 1999 Mw 7.1 Hector Mine earthquake. We calculated a net slip of 960 +70/-40 m, based on the slip vector formed by a vertically separated lithologic contact and a horizontally separated older cross fault. The net slip we calculated is significantly less than a previous estimate that was based on an offset magnetic gradient, a disparity that may be explained by considering off-fault deformation, as well as the unknown depth and nature of the source of the magnetic contrast. In Chapter IV, we explored using a new method for the relative dating of Quaternary geomorphic surfaces, which is based on the positive correlation between increased spectral contrast in thermal hyperspectral airborne imagery and surface age. With field data, we found that desert varnish scores, desert pavement scores, and vegetation spacing estimates also correlate positively with surface age, implying that these factors could contribute to the increased spectral contrast in airborne remote sensing spectra. Additionally, the general increase in the band depth of airborne spectra at 9.16 μm could be due to increasing clay mineral abundance in progressively heavier desert varnish coatings on older surfaces. The positive correlation observed in this study between surface age and spectral contrast in airborne spectra can perhaps be used to develop a method for relative dating of varnished geomorphic surfaces elsewhere. All of the chapters in this thesis are broadly related by the concepts of geologic time and tectonic activity, which are two aspects of modern geology that are intrinsic to the science as a whole.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Johnnie Formation; Ediacaran; tectonic subsidence; chemostratigraphy; Shuram excursion; Lavic Lake fault; Hector Mine earthquake; thermal infrared hyperspectral airborne remote sensing; southern San Andreas fault; desert varnish; clay minerals
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Stock, Joann M. (advisor)
  • Wernicke, Brian P. (advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Wernicke, Brian P. (chair)
  • Ehlmann, Bethany L.
  • Rossman, George Robert
  • Stock, Joann M.
Defense Date:12 October 2018
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:01172019-113222535
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter 2.
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11344
Deposited By: Rebecca Witkosky
Deposited On:30 Jan 2019 17:38
Last Modified:12 Nov 2021 19:24

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PDF (Chapter 2) - Final Version
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PDF (Chapter 4) - Final Version
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