Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 166, Issue 10–11, pp 1575–1594 | Cite as

Segmentation along Strike-Slip Faults Revisited

  • Ghislain de Joussineau
  • Atilla Aydin


Fault segmentation and fault steps and their evolution are relevant to the dynamics and size of earthquake ruptures, the distribution of fault damage zones and the capacity of fault seal. Furthermore, segment interactions and coalescence are the fundamental processes for fault growth. To contribute to this end, we investigated the architecture of strike-slip faults by combining field observations in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, and the published data sets.

First, we studied the trace complexity for 49 faults with offsets ranging from 12 m to 460 km. We established that the number of fault steps (hence fault segments) per unit length is correlated to the maximum fault offset by a negative power law. The faults have longer segments and fewer steps when their offsets increase, indicating the progressive growth, smoothening and simplification of the fault traces as a function of the offset, as proposed by previous investigators.

Second, we studied the dimensions of the segments and steps composing ~20 of the previous fault systems. The mean segment length, mean step length and mean step width are all correlated to the maximum fault offset by positive power laws over four orders of magnitude of the offset. In addition, the segment length distributions of four of the faults with offsets ranging from 80 m to 100 km are all lognormal, with most of the segment lengths falling in the range of one to five times the maximum offset of the faults. Finally, the fault steps have an approximately constant length-to-width ratio indicating that, regardless of their environment, strike-slip faults have a remarkable self-similar architecture probably due to the mechanical processes responsible for fault growth. Our data sets can be used as tools to better predict the geometrical attributes of strike-slip fault systems with important consequences for earthquake ruptures, the distribution and properties of fault damage zones, and fault sealing potential.


Strike-slip faults fault trace complexity fault step fault segment length fault step length fault step width hierarchical self-similar fault architecture 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rock Fracture Project, Department of Geological and Environmental SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Beicip-FranlabRueil-Malmaison CedexFrance

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