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Zipper junctions: A new approach to the intersections of conjugate strike-slip faults

Cees W. Passchier, & John P. Platt

Published September 26, 2016, SCEC Contribution #8352

Intersecting pairs of simultaneously active faults with opposing slip sense present geometrical and kinematic problems. Such faults rarely offset each other but usually merge into a single fault, even when they have displacements of many kilometers. The space problems involved are solved by lengthening the merged fault (zippering up the conjugate faults) or splitting it (unzippering). This process can operate in thrust, normal, and strike-slip fault settings. Examples of conjugate pairs of large-scale strike-slip faults that may have zippered up include the Garlock and San Andreas faults in California (USA), the North and East Anatolian faults (Turkey), the Karakoram and Altyn Tagh faults (Tibet), and the Tonale and Giudicarie faults (southern Alps). Intersecting conjugate ductile shear zones behave in the same way on outcrop and micro-scales. Zippering may produce complex and significant patterns of strain and rotation in the surrounding rocks, depending on the angle between the faults and the relative strength of the blocks they bound. A zippered fault will have a slip rate equal to the vector sum of the slip rates on the merging faults, unless that displacement is transferred into or out of the system by distributed strain in the surrounding rocks.

Passchier, C. W., & Platt, J. P. (2016). Zipper junctions: A new approach to the intersections of conjugate strike-slip faults. Geology, 44(10), 795-798. doi: 10.1130/G38058.1.