Global Positioning System constraints on fault slip rates in southern California and northern Baja, Mexico

Richard A. Bennett, William Rodi, Robert E. Reilinger

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167 Scopus citations


We use Global Positioning System (GPS) estimates of horizontal site velocity to constrain slip rates on faults comprising the Pacific-North America plate boundary in southern California and northern Mexico. We enlist a simple elastic block model to parameterize the distribution and sum of deformation within and across the plate boundary. We estimate a Pacific-North America relative plate motion rate of 49 ± 3 mm/yr (one standard deviation), consistent with NUVEL-1A estimates. We are able to resolve robust slip rate estimates for the southernmost San Andreas, San Jacinto, and Elsinore faults (26 ± 2, 9 ± 2, and 6 ± 2 mm/yr, respectively) and for the Imperial and Cerro Prieto faults (35 ± 2 and 42 ± 1 mm/yr, respectively), accounting for about 86% of the total plate motion. The remaining 14% appears to be accommodated to the west of these fault systems, probably via slip along the San Clemente fault and/or the San Miguel, Vallecitos, Rose Canyon, and Newport-Inglewood fault systems. These results are highly consistent with paleoseismic estimates for slip rates implying that off-fault strain accumulation within the deforming zone of the plate boundary is largely elastic. We estimate that the seismically quiescent, southernmost San Andreas fault has incurred about 8.2 m of slip deficit over the last few hundred years, presumably to be recovered during a future large earthquake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96JB02488
Pages (from-to)21943-21960
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue numberB10
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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