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Fault dimensions, displacements and growth


Maximum total displacement (D) is plotted against fault or thrust width(W) for 65 faults, thrusts, and groups of faults from a variety of geological environments. Displacements range from 0.4 m to 40 km and widths from 150 m to 630 km, and there is a near linear relationship betweenD andW 2. The required compatibility strains (e s) in rocks adjacent to these faults increases linearly withW and with\(\sqrt D \) and ranges frome s=2×10−4 toe s=3×10−1. These are permanent ductile strains, which compare with values ofe s=2×10−5 for the elastic strains imposed during single slip earthquake events, which are characterised by a linear relationship between slip (u) andW.

The data are consisten with a simple growth model for faults and thrusts, in which the slip in successive events increases by increments of constant size, and which predicts a relationship between displacement and width of the formD=cW 2. Incorporation of constant ductile strain rate into the model shows that the repreat time for slip events remains constant throughout the life of a fault, while the displacement rate increases with time. An internally consistent model withe s=2×10−5, giving repeat times of 160 years and instantaneous displacement rates of 0.02 cm/yr, 0.2 cm/yr, and 2.0 cm/yr when total displacement is 1 m, 100 m, and 10 km, and slip increasing by 0.5 mm with each event, gives a good approximation of the data. The model is also applicable to stable sliding, the slip rate varying with ductile strain rate and withW 2.

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Watterson, J. Fault dimensions, displacements and growth. PAGEOPH 124, 365–373 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00875732

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Key words

  • Fault
  • displacement
  • seismic slip
  • strain
  • strain rate
  • displacement rate