Kattenhorn, S.A., Pollard, D.D. (1999)


Is lithostatic loading important for the slip behavior and evolution of normal faults in the Earth's crust?

Journal of Geophysical Research 104 (B12), 28,879-28,898.

Normal faults growing in the Earth's crust are subject to the effects of an increasing frictional resistance to slip caused by the increasing lithostatic load with depth. We use three-dimensional (3-D) boundary element method numerical models to evaluate these effects on planar normal faults with variable elliptical tip line shapes in an elastic solid. As a result of increasing friction with depth, normal fault slip maxima for a single slip event are skewed away from the fault center toward the upper fault tip. There is a correspondingly greater propagation tendency at the upper tip. However, the tall faults that would result from such a propagation tendency are generally not observed in nature. We show how mechanical interaction between laterally stepping fault segments significantly competes with the lithostatic loading effect in the evolution of a normal fault system, promoting lateral propagation and possibly segment linkage. Resultant composite faults are wider than they are tall, resembling both 3-D seismic data interpretations and previously documented characteristics of normal fault systems. However, this effect may be greatly comple-mented by the influence of a heterogeneous stratigraphy, which can control fault nucleation depth and inhibit fault propagation across the mechanical layering. Our models demonstrate that al-though lithostatic loading may be an important control on fault evolution in relatively homogene-ous rocks, the contribution of lithologic influences and mechanical interaction between closely spaced, laterally stepping faults may predominate in determining the slip behavior and propagation tendency of normal faults in the Earth's crust.

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This paper has been cited in the following 10 works:

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Kattenhorn, S.A., Pollard, D.D., 2001. Integrating 3-D seismic data, field analogs, and mechanical models in the analysis of segmented normal faults in the Wytch Farm oil field, southern England, United Kingdom. AAPG BULLETIN 85 (7): 1183-1210.