Kattenhorn, S.A., Marshall, S.T. (2006)


Fault-induced perturbed stress fields and associated tensile and compressive deformation at fault tips in the ice shell of Europa: Implications for fault mechanics.

Journal of Structural Geology 28, 2204-2221.

Secondary fractures at the tips of strike-slip faults are common in the ice shell of Europa. Large magnitude perturbed stress fields must therefore be considered to be a viable driving mechanism for the development of part of the fracture sequence. Fault motions produce extensional and compressional quadrants around the fault tips. Theoretically, these quadrants can be associated with tensile and compressive deformational features (i.e. cracks and anti-cracks), respectively. Accordingly, we describe examples of both types of deformation at fault tips on Europa in the form of extensional tailcracks and compressional anti-cracks. The characteristics of these features with respect to the plane of the fault create a fingerprint for the mechanics of fault slip accumulation when compared with linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) models of perturbed stress fields around fault tips. Tailcrack kink angles and curving geometry can be used to determine whether opening accompanies sliding motion. Kink angles in the 50-70° range are common along strike-slip faults that resemble ridges, and indicate that little to no opening accompanied sliding. In contrast, tailcrack kink angles are closer to 30° for strike-slip faults that resemble bands, with tailcrack curvatures opposite to ridge-like fault examples, indicating that these faults undergo significant dilation and infill during fault slip episodes. Anti-cracks, which may result from compression and volume reduction of porous near-surface ice, have geometries that further constrain fault motion history, corroborating the results of tailcrack analysis. The angular separation between anti-cracks and tailcracks are similar to LEFM predictions, indicating the absence of cohesive end-zones near the tips of Europan faults, hence suggesting homogeneous frictional properties along the fault length. Tailcrack analysis can be applied to the interpretation of cycloidal ridges: chains of arcuate cracks on Europa that are separated by sharp kinks called cusps. Cusp angles are reminiscent of tailcrack kink angles along ridge-like strike-slip faults. Cycloid growth in a temporally variable tidal stress field ultimately resolves shear stresses onto the near-tip region of a growing cycloid segment. Thus, resultant slip and associated tailcrack development may be the driving force behind the initiation of the succeeding arcuate segment, hence facilitating the ongoing propagation of the cycloid chain.

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