A Caltech Library Service

I. The Superstition Hills, California, earthquakes of 24 November 1987. II. Three-dimensional velocity structure of southern California.


Magistrale, Harold William (1990) I. The Superstition Hills, California, earthquakes of 24 November 1987. II. Three-dimensional velocity structure of southern California. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/CVA7-Z091.


Part 1 of this thesis is about the 24 November, 1987, Superstition Hills earthquakes. The Superstition Hills earthquakes occurred in the western Imperial Valley in southern California. The earthquakes took place on a conjugate fault system consisting of the northwest-striking right-lateral Superstition Hills fault and a previously unknown Elmore Ranch fault, a northeast-striking left-lateral structure defined by surface rupture and a lineation of hypocenters. The earthquake sequence consisted of foreshocks, the M_s 6.2 first main shock, and aftershocks on the Elmore Ranch fault followed by the M_s 6.6 second main shock and aftershocks on the Superstition Hills fault. There was dramatic surface rupture along the Superstition Hills fault in three segments: the northern segment, the southern segment, and the Wienert fault.

In Chapter 2, M_L≥4.0 earthquakes from 1945 to 1971 that have Caltech catalog locations near the 1987 sequence are relocated. It is found that none of the relocated earthquakes occur on the southern segment of the Superstition Hills fault and many occur at the intersection of the Superstition Hills and Elmore Ranch faults. Also, some other northeast-striking faults may have been active during that time.

Chapter 3 discusses the Superstition Hills earthquake sequence using data from the Caltech-U.S.G.S. southern California seismic array. The earthquakes are relocated and their distribution correlated to the type and arrangement of the basement rocks. The larger earthquakes occur only where continental crystalline basement rocks are present. The northern segment of the Superstition Hills fault has more aftershocks than the southern segment.

An inversion of long period teleseismic data of the second mainshock of the 1987 sequence, along the Superstition Hills fault, is done in Chapter 4. Most of the long period seismic energy seen teleseismically is radiated from the southern segment of the Superstition Hills fault. The fault dip is near vertical along the northern segment of the fault and steeply southwest dipping along the southern segment of the fault.

Chapter 5 is a field study of slip and afterslip measurements made along the Superstition Hills fault following the second mainshock. Slip and afterslip measurements were started only two hours after the earthquake. In some locations, afterslip more than doubled the coseismic slip. The northern and southern segments of the Superstition Hills fault differ in the proportion of coseismic and postseismic slip to the total slip.

The northern segment of the Superstition Hills fault had more aftershocks, more historic earthquakes, released less teleseismic energy, and had a smaller proportion of afterslip to total slip than the southern segment. The boundary between the two segments lies at a step in the basement that separates a deeper metasedimentary basement to the south from a shallower crystalline basement to the north.

Part 2 of the thesis deals with the three-dimensional velocity structure of southern California. In Chapter 7, an a priori three-dimensional crustal velocity model is constructed by partitioning southern California into geologic provinces, with each province having a consistent one-dimensional velocity structure. The one-dimensional velocity structures of each region were then assembled into a three-dimensional model. The three-dimension model was calibrated by forward modeling of explosion travel times.

In Chapter 8, the three-dimensional velocity model is used to locate earthquakes. For about 1000 earthquakes relocated in the Los Angeles basin, the three-dimensional model has a variance of the the travel time residuals 47 per cent less than the catalog locations found using a standard one-dimensional velocity model. Other than the 1987 Whittier earthquake sequence, little correspondence is seen between these earthquake locations and elements of a recent structural cross section of the Los Angeles basin. The Whittier sequence involved rupture of a north dipping thrust fault bounded on at least one side by a strike-slip fault. The 1988 Pasadena earthquake was deep left-lateral event on the Raymond fault. The 1989 Montebello earthquake was a thrust event on a structure similar to that on which the Whittier earthquake occurred. The 1989 Malibu earthquake was a thrust or oblique slip event adjacent to the 1979 Malibu earthquake.

At least two of the largest recent thrust earthquakes (San Fernando and Whittier) in the Los Angeles basin have had the extent of their thrust plane ruptures limited by strike-slip faults. This suggests that the buried thrust faults underlying the Los Angeles basin are segmented by strike-slip faults.

Earthquake and explosion travel times are inverted for the three-dimensional velocity structure of southern California in Chapter 9. The inversion reduced the variance of the travel time residuals by 47 per cent compared to the starting model, a reparameterized version of the forward model of Chapter 7. The Los Angeles basin is well resolved, with seismically slow sediments atop a crust of granitic velocities. Moho depth is between 26 and 32 km.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Geology, Superstition Hills, Three-dimensional, velocity structure
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Kanamori, Hiroo
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:13 February 1990
Non-Caltech Author Email:hmagistrale (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Caltech Earthquake Research AffiliatesUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03192015-141811420
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8794
Deposited By: Dan Anguka
Deposited On:20 Mar 2015 19:53
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:20

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page