Seismic reflection study of the East Potrillo Fault, southwestern Dona Ana County, New Mexico

Shane Alan Carley, University of Texas at El Paso


The East Potrillo Mountains are located just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in southwestern Dona Ana County, New Mexico. Laramide and Rio Grande rift deformation has formed low-angle and high-angle Tertiary normal faults that are exposed in the area. Along the east flank of the range is the East Potrillo Fault identified on the surface as a north-striking scarp. Fault scarps associated with the East Potrillo Fault have been dated using slope degradation models and they range between 56 ka and 377 ka in age. Offset of geomorphic surfaces interpreted to be tectonic terraces records at least four earthquakes over that period of time, leading to an estimated recurrence interval of 33.5 kyr. Because of this paleoseismic history, the East Potrillo Fault potentially poses a significant seismic hazard to the over 2 million residents living in the border region. Our study presents two 2D seismic reflection profiles to give the first subsurface image of the East Potrillo Fault and potentially other subsidiary faults that have not broken the surface. Three faults are identified in the subsurface, two of which were previously unknown. The range bounding fault is identified 300 m west of observed fault scarps. The fault scarp is found to be formed from one of two secondary faults. It dips 75°s east and has a fault offset of 150 m. The other secondary fault is an antithetic fault dipping 75°s west and forms a graben within the EPF system. The vibroseis source data acquisition is found to be beneficial for characterizing unknown subsurface features.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Carley, Shane Alan, "Seismic reflection study of the East Potrillo Fault, southwestern Dona Ana County, New Mexico" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1533212.