Articles | Volume 5, issue 2
Research article
26 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 26 Aug 2014

Exploring the shallow structure of the San Ramón thrust fault in Santiago, Chile (~33.5° S), using active seismic and electric methods

D. Díaz, A. Maksymowicz, G. Vargas, E. Vera, E. Contreras-Reyes, and S. Rebolledo

Abstract. The crustal-scale west-vergent San Ramón thrust fault system, which lies at the foot of the main Andean Cordillera in central Chile, is a geologically active structure with manifestations of late Quaternary complex surface rupture on fault segments along the eastern border of the city of Santiago. From the comparison of geophysical and geological observations, we assessed the subsurface structural pattern that affects the sedimentary cover and rock-substratum topography across fault scarps, which is critical for evaluating structural models and associated seismic hazard along the related faults. We performed seismic profiles with an average length of 250 m, using an array of 24 geophones (Geode), with 25 shots per profile, to produce high-resolution seismic tomography to aid in interpreting impedance changes associated with the deformed sedimentary cover. The recorded travel-time refractions and reflections were jointly inverted by using a 2-D tomographic approach, which resulted in variations across the scarp axis in both the velocities and the reflections that are interpreted as the sedimentary cover-rock substratum topography. Seismic anisotropy observed from tomographic profiles is consistent with sediment deformation triggered by west-vergent thrust tectonics along the fault. Electrical soundings crossing two fault scarps were used to construct subsurface resistivity tomographic profiles, which reveal systematic differences between lower resistivity values in the hanging wall with respect to the footwall of the geological structure, and clearly show well-defined east-dipping resistivity boundaries. These boundaries can be interpreted in terms of structurally driven fluid content change between the hanging wall and the footwall of the San Ramón fault. The overall results are consistent with a west-vergent thrust structure dipping ~55° E in the subsurface beneath the piedmont sediments, with local complexities likely associated with variations in fault surface rupture propagation, fault splays and fault segment transfer zones.