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Part I. A study of the velocity structure of the earth by the use of core phases. Part II. The 1971 San Fernando earthquake series focal mechanisms and tectonics


Whitcomb, James Hall (1973) Part I. A study of the velocity structure of the earth by the use of core phases. Part II. The 1971 San Fernando earthquake series focal mechanisms and tectonics. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/JDKQ-2Z91.


The initial objective of Part I was to determine the nature of upper mantle discontinuities, the average velocities through the mantle, and differences between mantle structure under continents and oceans by the use of P'dP', the seismic core phase P'P' (PKPPKP) that reflects at depth d in the mantle. In order to accomplish this, it was found necessary to also investigate core phases themselves and their inferences on core structure. P'dP' at both single stations and at the LASA array in Montana indicates that the following zones are candidates for discontinuities with varying degrees of confidence: 800-950 km, weak; 630-670 km, strongest; 500-600 km, strong but interpretation in doubt; 350-415 km, fair; 280-300 km, strong, varying in depth; 100-200 km, strong, varying in depth, may be the bottom of the low-velocity zone. It is estimated that a single station cannot easily discriminate between asymmetric P'P' and P'dP' for lead times of about 30 sec from the main P'P' phase, but the LASA array reduces this uncertainty range to less than 10 sec. The problems of scatter of P'P' main-phase times, mainly due to asymmetric P'P', incorrect identification of the branch, and lack of the proper velocity structure at the velocity point, are avoided and the analysis shows that one-way travel of P waves through oceanic mantle is delayed by 0.65 to 0.95 sec relative to United States mid-continental mantle.

A new P-wave velocity core model is constructed from observed times, dt/dΔ's, and relative amplitudes of P'; the observed times of SKS, SKKS, and PKiKP; and a new mantle-velocity determination by Jordan and Anderson. The new core model is smooth except for a discontinuity at the inner-core boundary determined to be at a radius of 1215 km. Short-period amplitude data do not require the inner core Q to be significantly lower than that of the outer core. Several lines of evidence show that most, if not all, of the arrivals preceding the DF branch of P' at distances shorter than 143° are due to scattering as proposed by Haddon and not due to spherically symmetric discontinuities just above the inner core as previously believed. Calculation of the travel-time distribution of scattered phases and comparison with published data show that the strongest scattering takes place at or near the core-mantle boundary close to the seismic station.

In Part II, the largest events in the San Fernando earthquake series, initiated by the main shock at 14 00 41.8 GMT on February 9, 1971, were chosen for analysis from the first three months of activity, 87 events in all. The initial rupture location coincides with the lower, northernmost edge of the main north-dipping thrust fault and the aftershock distribution. The best focal mechanism fit to the main shock P-wave first motions constrains the fault plane parameters to: strike, N 67° (± 6°) W; dip, 52° (± 3°) NE; rake, 72° (67°-95°) left lateral. Focal mechanisms of the aftershocks clearly outline a downstep of the western edge of the main thrust fault surface along a northeast-trending flexure. Faulting on this downstep is left-lateral strike-slip and dominates the strain release of the aftershock series, which indicates that the downstep limited the main event rupture on the west. The main thrust fault surface dips at about 35° to the northeast at shallow depths and probably steepens to 50° below a depth of 8 km. This steep dip at depth is a characteristic of other thrust faults in the Transverse Ranges and indicates the presence at depth of laterally-varying vertical forces that are probably due to buckling or overriding that causes some upward redirection of a dominant north-south horizontal compression. Two sets of events exhibit normal dip-slip motion with shallow hypocenters and correlate with areas of ground subsidence deduced from gravity data. Several lines of evidence indicate that a horizontal compressional stress in a north or north-northwest direction was added to the stresses in the aftershock area 12 days after the main shock. After this change, events were contained in bursts along the downstep and sequencing within the bursts provides evidence for an earthquake-triggering phenomenon that propagates with speeds of 5 to 15 km/day. Seismicity before the San Fernando series and the mapped structure of the area suggest that the downstep of the main fault surface is not a localized discontinuity but is part of a zone of weakness extending from Point Dume, near Malibu, to Palmdale on the San Andreas fault. This zone is interpreted as a decoupling boundary between crustal blocks that permits them to deform separately in the prevalent crustal-shortening mode of the Transverse Ranges region.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Geology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Anderson, Donald L.
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:12 April 1973
Funding AgencyGrant Number
CIT Earthquake Research AffiliatesUNSPECIFIED
NSFGA 29920
Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyUNSPECIFIED
Air Force Office of Scientific ResearchF44620-72-C-0078
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:02202014-135247734
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8090
Deposited On:27 Feb 2014 23:28
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:20

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