Slow and Go: Pulsing slip rates on the creeping section of the San Andreas Fault

Ryan C. Turner, Manoochehr Shirzaei, Robert M. Nadeau, Roland Bürgmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Rising and falling slip rates on the creeping section of the San Andreas Fault have been inferred from variations of recurrence intervals of characteristically repeating microearthquakes, but this observation has not previously been confirmed using modern geodetic data. Here we report on observations of this "pulsing" slip obtained from advanced multitemporal interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data, confirmed using continuous GPS sites of the Plate Boundary Observatory. The surface deformation time series show a strong correlation to the previously documented slip rate variations derived from repeating earthquakes on the fault interface, at various spatial and temporal scales. Time series and spectral analyses of repeating earthquake and InSAR data reveal a quasiperiodic pulsing with a roughly 2 year period along some sections of the fault, with the earthquakes on the fault interface lagging behind the far-field deformation by about 6 months. This suggests a temporal delay between the pulsing crustal strain generated by deep-seated shear and the time-variable slip on the shallow fault interface, and that at least in some places this process may be cyclical. There exist potential impacts for time-dependent seismic hazard forecasting in California and, as it becomes better validated in the richly instrumented natural laboratory of the central San Andreas Fault, the process used here will be even more helpful in characterizing hazard and fault zone rheology in areas without California's geodetic infrastructure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5940-5951
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • InSAR
  • Plate Boundary Observatory
  • San Andreas Fault
  • creep
  • deformation
  • repeating earthquakes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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