Structural Controls on Geothermal Circulation in Surprise Valley, California: A Re-evaluation of the Lake City Fault Zone

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Geological Sciences

Publication Date



Faults and fractures play an important role in the circulation of geothermal fluids in the crust, and the nature of that role varies according to structural setting and state of stress. As a result, detailed geologic and geophysical mapping that relates thermal springs to known structural features is essential to modeling geothermal systems. Published maps of Surprise Valley in northeastern California suggest that the "Lake City fault" or "Lake City fault zone" is a significant structural feature, cutting obliquely across the basin and connecting thermal springs across the valley. Newly acquired geophysical data (audio-magnetotelluric, gravity, and magnetic), combined with existing geochemical and geological data, suggest otherwise. We examine potential field profiles and resistivity models that cross the mapped Lake City fault zone. While there are numerous geophysical anomalies that suggest subsurface structures, they mostly do not coincide with the mapped traces of the Lake City fault zone, nor do they show a consistent signature in gravity, magnetics, or resistivities that would suggest a through-going fault that would promote connectivity through lateral fluid flow. Instead of a single, continuous fault, we propose the presence of a deformation zone associated with the growth of the range-front Surprise Valley fault. The implication for geothermal circulation is that this is a zone of enhanced porosity but lacks length-wise connectivity that could conduct fluids across the valley. Thermal fluid circulation is most likely controlled primarily by interactions between N-S–trending normal faults.


This article was originally published in GSA Bulletin. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download through ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Geological Society of America Bulletin


Copyright © 2014 by Geological Society of America