Preliminary paleoseismic results from the Pastores fault and its role in the seismic hazard of the Acambay graben, Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, Mexico

  • Robert Max Langridge
  • Mira Persaud
  • Francisco Ramón Zúñiga
  • Gerardo de Jesús Aguirre-Díaz
  • Pilar Villamor
  • Pierre Lacan
Keywords: paleoseismicity, active faulting, Pastores fault, Acambay graben, Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, Mexico


Shallow, crustal normal faulting earthquakes represent a significant seismic risk to the local towns and regional cities of central Mexico. Within the Acambay graben, the Pastores fault is a ca. 33 km long active, east-west striking, north-dipping normal fault. Two paleoseismic trenches were excavated at the Manto del Río site to estimate preliminary active fault and seismic hazard parameters. Both trenches showed evidence for at least two latest Pleistocene to Holocene paleo-earthquake ruptures, constrained by radiocarbon dates from the West trench and through correlation of pyroclastic units between the trenches. The oldest faulting event (Event III) is bracketed within the interval ca. 31.5–41.0 cal kyr BP. Units higher in the trench are less displaced and provide evidence for at least one younger event. Rupture event II is bracketed within the interval ca. 23.9–34.6 cal kyr BP. The youngest faulting event (Event I; 12.2–12.6 cal kyr BP) is inferred from the presence of organic infill within the main fault zone (fissure). These results yield a preliminary recurrence interval of surface faulting of ca. 10–15 kyr for the Pastores fault. Based on a maximum single-event displacement (SED) of ca. 50 cm, an average SED of ca. 30 cm, and fault rupture lengths of up to 33 km, a magnitude of M 6.6–6.8 is estimated for surface rupturing events. Both the SED and latest Pleistocene to Holocene slip rate (ca. 0.03 mm/yr) at the trench site are likely to be less than values measured toward the western end of the fault where the rangefront is larger. The Acambay graben has distinct eastern and western halves, being divided by a N- to NNW-striking structural zone corresponding to the Taxco-San Miguel de Allende fault system. Paleoseismic data and empirical relationships suggest that the Pastores fault constitutes both a distinct seismic source from other active faults of the Acambay graben and a significant seismic hazard.