Reversed-polarity secondary deformation structures near fault stepovers

Yehuda Ben-Zion, Thomas K. Rockwell, Zheqiang Shi, & Shiqing Xu

Published 2012, SCEC Contribution #1707

We study volumetric deformation structures in stepover regions using numerical simulations and field observations, with a focus on small-scale features near the ends of rupture segments that have opposite-polarity from the larger-scale structures that characterize the overall stepover region. The reversed-polarity small-scale structures are interpreted to be generated by arrest phases that start at the barriers and propagate some distance back into the rupture segment. Dynamic rupture propagating as a symmetric bilateral crack produces similar (anti-symmetric) structures at both rupture ends. In contrast, rupture in the form of a predominantly unidirectional pulse produces pronounced reversed-polarity structures only at the fault end in the dominant propagation direction. Several observational examples at different scales from strike-slip faults of the San Andreas system in southern California illustrate the existence of reversed-polarity secondary deformation structures. In the examples shown, relatively-small pressure-ridges are seen only on one side of relatively-large extensional stepovers. This suggests frequent predominantly unidirectional ruptures in at least some of those cases, although multi-signal observations are needed to distinguish between different possible mechanisms. The results contribute to the ability of inferring from field observations on persistent behavior of earthquake ruptures associated with individual fault sections.

Ben-Zion, Y., Rockwell, T. K., Shi, Z., & Xu, S. (2012). Reversed-polarity secondary deformation structures near fault stepovers. Journal of Applied Mechanics, 79(3), 031025. doi: 10.1115/1.4006154.