Space geodetic observation of the deformation cycle across the Ballenas Transform, Gulf of California

Christina Plattner, Rocco Malservisi, Falk Amelung, Timothy H. Dixon, Matthias Hackl, Alessandro Verdecchia, Peter Lonsdale, Francisco Suarez-Vidal, Javier Gonzalez-Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The Gulf of California, Mexico, accommodates ~90% of North America-Pacific plate relative motion. While most of this motion occurs on marine transform faults and spreading centers, several fault segments in the central Gulf come close to peninsular Baja California. Here we present Global Positioning System and interferometric synthetic aperture radar data near the Ballenas transform fault, separating the peninsula from Angel de la Guarda Island. We observe interseismic motion between June 2004 and May 2009 and displacements associated with the 3 August 2009 Mw 6.9 earthquake. From the interseismic data we estimate a locking depth of 9-12.5 km and a slip rate of 44.9-48.1 mm/yr, indicating that faults east of Angel de la Guarda deform at negligible rates and that the Ballenas Transform accommodates virtually all of the relative motion between the North American plate and the Baja California microplate. Our preferred model for coseismic slip on a finite rectangular fault plane suggests 1.3 m of strike-slip displacement along a vertical rupture plane that is 60 km long and extends from the surface to a depth of 13 km in the eastern Ballenas Channel, striking parallel to Baja California-North America relative plate motion. These estimates agree with the seismic moment tensor and the location of the major foreshock and aftershocks and are compatible with the fault location identified from high-resolution bathymetric mapping. The geodetic moment is 33% higher than the seismic moment in part because some afterslip and viscous flow in the first month after the earthquake are included in the geodetic estimate. Coulomb stress changes for adjacent faults in the Gulf are consistent with the location of smaller aftershocks following the 2009 main shock and suggest potential triggering of the 12 April 2012 Mw 6.9 Guaymas earthquake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5843-5862
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • GPS
  • Gulf of California
  • InSAR
  • coseismic rupture
  • interseismic strain accumulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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