Geology of the Monterey Bay region

Open-File Report 77-718



Geophysical data and sea floor samples collected from the continental shelf and slope between Ano Nuevo Point and Point Sur, California indicate that the Monterey Bay region has had a complex late Cenozoic tectonic history. Uplift and depression have produced a succession of regressive and transgressive sedimentary units, while contemporaneous right-slip along faults of the San Andreas system have offset major structural and lithologic elements. This deformation produced three regional and several local unconformities within upper Tertiary rocks and initiated development of a canyon system that today includes the Monterey, Ascension, Carmel, and other large submarine canyons. The Tertiary stratigraphy of the offshore Monterey Bay area is divided into two provinces by a major structural boundary, the north-trending Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone. East of this zone in the offshore are four seismically distinct sequences that can be correlated with major sequences onshore. These sequences comprise (1) pre-Tertiary basement, and (2) middle Miocene, (3) upper Miocene to Pliocene, and (4) upper Pliocene to Holocene sedimentary intervals. Each of the latter three sequences is bounded by unconformities, as is its counterpart on land. Only Neogene sedimentary rocks are present offshore; Paleogene units, if originally present, have been removed completely by pre-middle Miocene erosion. An extensive erosional surface was cut during Zemorrian time into the late Mesozoic granitic basement rocks. Incised into this surface are the ancestral Monterey Canyon and an unnamed canyon. Marine sedimentary rocks of upper Miocene and Pliocene age overlie this unconformably and fill the unnamed canyon. Similar rocks also may have once filled Monterey Canyon. Near shore these strata are covered by terrestrial alluvial and eolian deposits, deltaic deposits, marine canyon fill, landslide and slump deposits, and unconsolidated sediments that range in age from upper Pliocene to Holocene. Monterey Canyon appears to have been filled and exhumed at least twice since its inception in Oligocene time, once in late Miocene and once in Pleistocene time. Three major seismic stratigraphic units are apparent in continuous seismic reflection profiles from the offshore area west of the Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone. These are (1) acoustical basement, and (2) middle Tertiary and (3) late Tertiary to Quaternary sedimentary intervals. Acoustical basement comprises Cretaceous to early Tertiary sedimentary rocks, Mesozoic or older metamorphic rocks, and Cretaceous or Jurassic rocks of the Franciscan assemblage. The middle Tertiary sequence consists of sedimentary rocks of questionable Miocene age. The late Tertiary to Quaternary sequence is composed of Pliocene sedimentary rocks and unconsolidated marine sediments, and submarine landslide and slump deposits. Seismic reflection surveys indicate two major, intersecting, northwest-trending fault zones to be present in the offshore Monterey Bay area. The Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone may be more than 200 km long; it is narrow (approximately 3 km wide) and is represented in most places by one or two faults. This zone appears to connect with faults mapped on land near Ano Nuevo Point and Point Sur. The Monterey Bay fault zone, located in the area between Santa Cruz and Monterey, is a diffuse zone, approximately 10 to 15 km wide, of en echelon faults. Faults within this zone appear to connect with faults on land near Monterey, and the zone appears to be truncated by the Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone west of Santa Cruz. Locations of more than 110 earthquakes (1968-1976) show that the newly mapped fault zones in Monterey Bay are seismically active. Epicenters in the bay form two clusters, one at the intersection of the Monterey Bay and Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zones, and the other in a linear belt that trends northwest along the Palo Colorado-San Gregorio fault zone. Faults within th

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geology of the Monterey Bay region
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 77-718
DOI 10.3133/ofr77718
Year Published 1977
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description Report: xvi, 347 p.; 9 Plates: 38.94 × 40.32 inches or smaller
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Monterey Bay region
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