Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

James P. Evans


James P. Evans


Anthony Lowry


John Shervais


Susanne Janecke


Janis Boettinger


This project examines the composition, structure, and geophysical properties of rocks sampled within the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) borehole drilling experiment near Parkfield, California. Cuttings, sidewall cores, spot-core, and whole-rock core are examined from the meso- to micro-scale to characterize the nearfault environment at shallow crustal levels (0-4 km) along the central segment of the San Andreas fault. The central segment deforms by contiuous aseismic creep and microseismicity. An integrated approach utilizing core-logging, detailed structural core mapping, petrology, microstructural analyses, whole-rock geochemistry, borehole geophysics, and analog field studies is followed.

At SAFOD, fractured granitic rocks and arkosic sediments are identified west of the San Andreas fault zone on the Pacific Plate; whereas sheared fine-grained sediments, ultrafine black fault-related rocks, and serpentinite-bearing fault gouge are present within and northeast of the fault zone on the North American Plate. Here, the fault consists of a broad zone of variably damaged rock containing localized zones of highly concentrated shear that often juxtapose distinct rock-types. Two zones of serpentinite-bearing clay gouge, each meters-thick are found in two locations where active aseismic creep was identified in the borehole. The gouge is composed of Mg-rich clays, serpentinite (lizardite ± chrysotile) with notable increases in magnetite, and Fe-, Ni-, and Cr-oxides/hydroxides and Fe-sulfides relative to the surrounding host rock. Organic carbon is locally high within fractures and bounding slip surfaces. The rocks adjacent to and within the two gouge zones display a range of deformation including intensely fractured regions, blockin- matrix fabrics, and foliated cataclasite structure. The blocks and clasts predominately consist of competent sandstone and siltstone embedded in a clay-rich matrix that displays a penetrative scaly fabric. Mineral alteration, veins, fracture-surface coatings, and slickelined surfaces are present throughout the core, and reflect a long history of syndeformation and fluid-rock reaction that contributes to the low-strength and creep in the meters-thick gouge zones.

Evaluation of borehole geophysical data and elastic modulii for the lithologic and structural units identified in the SAFOD Phase 3 core reveal a correlation between composition and textures and the structural and/or permeability architecture of the SAF at SAFOD. Highly reduced velocity and elastic modulii surround the two serpentinitev bearing gouge zones, the Buzzard Canyon fault to the southwest, and another bounding fault to the northeast. Velocity and elastic moduli values on the Pacific Plate or southeast of the active fault trace intersected by SAFOD are much higher relative to the values measured on the North American Plate, or northeast of the fault trace. Within and adjacent to the two active gouge zones, the rock properties are highly variable over short distances, however, they are significantly lower relative to material outside of the fault zones.

This research contributes critical evidence for rock properties and slip behavior within an active plate boundary fault. Results from this research and the SAFOD experiment help to constrain numerous hypotheses related to fault zone behavior and earthquake generation within central California.




This work made publicly available electronically on December 21, 2012.

Included in

Geology Commons