Strain in Southern California: Measured Uniaxial North-South Regional Contraction

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Science  24 Nov 1978:
Vol. 202, Issue 4370, pp. 883-885
DOI: 10.1126/science.202.4370.883


The plate tectonics model of the Pacific moving northwest relative to North America implies that the regional strain in California should be simple shear across a vertical plane striking N45°W or equivalently equal parts of north-south contraction and east-west extension. Measurements of the strain accumulation at seven separate sites in southern California in the interval 1972 through 1978 indicate a remarkably consistent uniaxial north-south contraction of about 0.3 part per million per year; the expected east-west extension is absent. It is not clear whether the period from 1972 through 1978 is anomalous or whether the secular strain in southern California is indeed a uniaxial north-south contraction.