The role of coseismic Coulomb stress changes in shaping the hard-link between normal fault segments

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Michael Hodge, Ake Fagereng, Juliet Biggs


The mechanism and evolution of fault linkage is important in the growth and development of large faults. Here we investigate the role of coseismic stress changes in shaping the hard-links between parallel normal fault segments (or faults), by comparing numerical models of the Coulomb stress change from simulated earthquakes on two en echelon fault segments to natural observations of hard-linked fault geometry. We consider three simplified linking fault geometries: 1) fault bend; 2) breached relay ramp; and 3) strike-slip transform fault. We consider scenarios where either one or both segments rupture and vary the distance between segment tips. Fault bends and breached relay ramps are favoured where segments underlap, or when the strike-perpendicular distance between overlapping segments is less than 20% of their total length, matching all documented examples. Transform fault linkage geometries are preferred when overlapping segments are laterally offset at larger distances. Few transform faults exist in continental extensional settings, and our model suggests that propagating faults or fault segments may first link through fault bends or breached ramps before reaching sufficient overlap for a transform fault to develop. Our results suggest that Coulomb stresses arising from multi-segment ruptures or repeated earthquakes are consistent with natural observations of the geometry of hard-links between parallel normal fault segments



Earth Sciences, Geology, Geomorphology, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Tectonics and Structure


Stress, earthquake, Fault, segment, Coulomb, Fault link, Hard-link, Stress change


Published: 2017-11-27 19:01


Academic Free License (AFL) 3.0

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