Comparative geometry of the San Andreas Fault, California, and laboratory fault zones

Geological Society of America Bulletin
By:  and 



Textural examination of fault gouge deformed in triaxial friction experiments has revealed differences in the orientations of secondary shear sets between the stably sliding and stick-slip samples. In order to determine whether such differences can be identified in natural faults, maps of recently active breaks along the San Andreas fault from Point Arena to Cajon Pass, California, were examined to compare the types and orientations of secondary structures mapped in the creeping and locked sections. The fault zone was divided into 52 geometrically defined segments of uniform strike, which were then grouped into 7 sections: 4 straight and 2 curved sections, and Cholame Valley. One of the straight sections is the creeping section between San Juan Bautista and Cholame in central California; the rest of the sections are locked. Many of the gross geometric characteristics of the individual segments, such as length, width, and stepover size, reflect their position in either a straight or a curved section. In contrast, with respect to the orientations of the recent breaks within the segments, the single creeping section differs from all of the locked sections, both straight and curved, as follows: (1) the traces of recent breaks with a more west-ward orientation than the local strike of the fault zone (P traces) dominate over those with a more northward orientation (R traces) in the creeping section, whereas the opposite relationship holds in the locked sections, and (2) the more northward-oriented (R) traces make larger angles to the local strike of the fault zone in the locked sections than in the creeping section. The latter result is consistent with the orientations of R shears in our various laboratory samples. The former result was unexpected, because of the predominance of R shears in most laboratory samples, but a small number of samples are analogous to the creeping section in terms of their P-shear abundances, R-shear orientations, and sliding behavior. The causes of these distinguishing characteristics are not yet understood.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Comparative geometry of the San Andreas Fault, California, and laboratory fault zones
Series title Geological Society of America Bulletin
DOI 10.1130/0016-7606(1991)103<0762:CGOTSA>2.3.CO;2
Volume 103
Issue 6
Year Published 1991
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of America
Description 13 p.
First page 762
Last page 774
Country United States
State California
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details