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Low-angle normal faults and seismicity: A review

Wernicke, Brian (1995) Low-angle normal faults and seismicity: A review. Journal of Geophysical Research B, 100 (B10). pp. 20159-20174. ISSN 0148-0227. doi:10.1029/95JB01911.

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Although large, low-angle normal faults in the continental crust are widely recognized, doubts persist that they either initiate or slip at shallow dips (<30°), because (1) global compilations of normal fault focal mechanisms show only a small fraction of events with either nodal plane dipping less than 30° and (2) Andersonian fault mechanics predict that normal faults dipping less than 30° cannot slip. Geological reconstructions, thermochronology, paleomagnetic studies, and seismic reflection profiles, mainly published in the last 5 years, reinforce the view that active low-angle normal faulting in the brittle crust is widespread, underscoring the paradox of the seismicity data. For dip-slip faults large enough to break the entire brittle layer during earthquakes (M_w ∼ 6.5), consideration of their surface area and efficiency in accommodating extension as a function of dip θ suggests average recurrence intervals of earthquakes R' ∝ tan θ, assuming stress drop, rigidity modulus, and thickness of the seismogenic layer do not vary systematically with dip. If the global distribution of fault dip, normalized to total fault length, is uniform, the global recurrence of earthquakes as a function of dip is shown to be R ∝ tan θ sin θ. This relationship predicts that the frequency of earthquakes with nodal planes dipping between 30° and 60° will exceed those with planes shallower than 30° by a factor of 10, in good agreement with continental seismicity, assuming major normal faults dipping more than 60° are relatively uncommon. Revision of Andersonian fault mechanics to include rotation of the stress axes with depth, perhaps as a result of deep crustal shear against the brittle layer, would explain both the common occurrence of low-angle faults and the lack of large faults dipping more than 60°. If correct, this resolution of the paradox may indicate significant seismic hazard from large, low-angle normal faults.

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Wernicke, Brian0000-0002-7659-8358
Additional Information:© 1995 American Geophysical Union. Received August 26, 1994; revised June 13, 1995; accepted Jun 20, 1995. Paper number 95JB01911. Discussions with D. L. Anderson and H. Kanamori helped clarify my thinking on seismological apects of this paper. Reviews by G. A. Davis, R. K. Dokka, J. W. Geissman, T. A. Hauge, B. E. John, and JGR reviewers D. Davis, J. Oldow, and an anonymous referee contributed substantially toward improving the presentation. This research was supported by NSF grants EAR-9219939 and EAR-9316797.
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Issue or Number:B10
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Official Citation:Wernicke, B. (1995), Low-angle normal faults and seismicity: A review, J. Geophys. Res., 100(B10), 20159–20174, doi:10.1029/95JB01911.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:47347
Deposited On:18 Jul 2014 22:27
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 17:38

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