Lithospheric rheology constrained from twenty-five years of postseismic...

Huang, M., R. Burgmann, and F. Pollitz (2016), Lithospheric rheology constrained from twenty-five years of postseismic deformation following the 1989 M w 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 435, 147-158, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.12.018.

The October 17, 1989 M w 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake provides the first opportunity of probing the crustal and upper mantle rheology in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1906 M w 7.9 San Francisco earthquake. Here we use geodetic observations including GPS and InSAR to characterize the Loma Prieta earthquake postseismic displacements from 1989 to 2013. Pre-earthquake deformation rates are constrained by nearly 20 yr of USGS trilateration measurements and removed from the postseismic measurements prior to the analysis. We observe GPS horizontal displacements at mean rates of 1–4 mm/yr toward Loma Prieta Mountain until 2000, and ∼2 mm/yr surface subsidence of the northern Santa Cruz Mountains between 1992 and 2002 shown by InSAR, which is not associated with the seasonal and longer-term hydrological deformation in the adjoining Santa Clara Valley. Previous work indicates afterslip dominated in the early (1989–1994) postseismic period, so we focus on modeling the postseismic viscoelastic relaxation constrained by the geodetic observations after 1994. The best fitting model shows an elastic 19-km-thick upper crust above an 11-km-thick viscoelastic lower crust with viscosity of ∼6 × 1018 Pa s, underlain by a viscous upper mantle with viscosity between 3 × 1018 and 2 × 1019 Pa s. The millimeter-scale postseismic deformation does not resolve the viscosity in the different layers very well, and the lower-crustal relaxation may be localized in a narrow shear zone. However, the inferred lithospheric rheology is consistent with previous estimates based on post-1906 San Francisco earthquake measurements along the San Andreas fault system. The viscoelastic relaxation may also contribute to the enduring increase of aseismic slip and repeating earthquake activity on the San Andreas fault near San Juan Bautista, which continued for at least a decade after the Loma Prieta event.

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Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)