Rapid rotation of normal faults due to flexural stresses : an explanation for the global distribution of normal fault dips

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Olive, Jean-Arthur L.
Behn, Mark D.
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Normal fault dip
Fault rotation
Core complex
Work minimization
We present a mechanical model to explain why most seismically active normal faults have dips much lower (30–60°) than expected from Anderson-Byerlee theory (60–65°). Our model builds on classic finite extension theory but incorporates rotation of the active fault plane as a response to the buildup of bending stresses with increasing extension. We postulate that fault plane rotation acts to minimize the amount of extensional work required to sustain slip on the fault. In an elastic layer, this assumption results in rapid rotation of the active fault plane from ~60° down to 30–45° before fault heave has reached ~50% of the faulted layer thickness. Commensurate but overall slower rotation occurs in faulted layers of finite strength. Fault rotation rates scale as the inverse of the faulted layer thickness, which is in quantitative agreement with 2-D geodynamic simulations that include an elastoplastic description of the lithosphere. We show that fault rotation promotes longer-lived fault extension compared to continued slip on a high-angle normal fault and discuss the implications of such a mechanism for fault evolution in continental rift systems and oceanic spreading centers.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2014. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 119 (2014): 3722–3739, doi:10.1002/2013JB010512.
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 119 (2014): 3722–3739
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