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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Alexander Densmore

Densmore, A. L. & Anderson, R. S. Tectonic geomorphology of the Ash Hill fault, Panamint Valley, California. Basin Research. 1997;9:53-63.

Author(s) from Durham


Panamint Valley, in eastern California, is an extensional basin currently bounded by active, dextral-normal oblique-slip faults. There is considerable debate over the tectonic and topographic evolution of the valley. The least-studied structure, the Ash Hill fault, runs for some 50 km along the valley’s western edge, and active strands of the fault continue south into the neighbouring Slate Range. Vertical displacement on the fault is valley-side up, creating topography that conflicts with the gross morphology of the valley itself. We use this topography, along with kinematic and geological markers, to constrain the Quaternary slip rate and orientation of the Ash Hill fault. The fault offsets all but the active channel deposits in the valley, and slickenlines indicate a strike-slip to dip-slip ratio of 3.5:1. An offset volcanic unit dated at 4 Ma provides a minimum slip rate of 0.3±0.1 mm yr−1, and a long-term strike-slip to dip-slip ratio of 5.2:1. Slip on the fault has warped a palaeolake shoreline within the valley. Simple elastic dislocation modelling of the vertical deformation of the shoreline suggests total fault slip of ≈60 m, valley-side up. The shoreline probably dates to 120–150 ka, implying a late Quaternary slip rate of 0.4–0.5 mm yr−1. We suggest two possible mechanisms for the apparently anomalous slip behaviour of the Ash Hill fault. The fault may be a listric structure related to the proposed low-angle fault underlying Panamint Valley. Alternatively, the Ash Hill fault is a high-angle fault, implying that the valley is currently bounded by high-angle dextral-slip faults. Lack of detailed subsurface information precludes any knowledge of the true relationships between the presently active faults.