The moment magnitude (Mw) 7.9 Fort Tejon earthquake of 1857, with a ~350-kilometer-long surface rupture, was the most recent major earthquake along the south-central San Andreas Fault, California. Based on previous measurements of its surface slip distribution, rupture along the ~60-kilometer-long Carrizo segment was thought to control the recurrence of 1857-like earthquakes.
The spatial and temporal distribution of fault slip is a critical parameter in earthquake source models. Previous geomorphic and geologic studies of channel offset along the Carrizo section of the south central San Andreas Fault assumed that channels form more frequently than earthquakes occur and suggested that repeated large-slip earthquakes similar to the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake illustrate typical fault behavior. We found that offset channels in the Carrizo Plain incised less frequently than they were offset by earthquakes.
Paleoseismological data constrain the age, location, and associated magnitude of past surface-rupturing earthquakes; these are critical parameters for developing and testing fault behavior models and characterizing seismic hazard. We present new earthquake evidence and radiocarbon analyses that refine the chronology of the six most recent earthquakes that ruptured the south-central San Andreas fault in the Carrizo Plain (California, United States) at the Bidart Fan site.