Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 65–105 | Cite as

Magnetotelluric Studies at the San Andreas Fault Zone: Implications for the Role of Fluids

  • Michael BeckenEmail author
  • Oliver Ritter


Fluids residing in interconnected porosity networks have a significant weakening effect on the rheology of rocks and can strongly influence deformation along fault zones. The magnetotelluric (MT) technique is sensitive to interconnected fluid networks and can image these zones on crustal and upper mantle scales. MT images have revealed several prominent electrical conductivity anomalies at the San Andreas Fault which have been attributed to the presence of saline fluids within such networks and which have been associated with tectonic processes. These models suggest that ongoing fluid release in the upper mantle and lower crust is closely related to the mechanical state of the crust. Where fluids are drained into the brittle crust, and where these fluids are kept at high pressures, fault creep is supported. Fluid fluxes from deeper levels, in combination with meteoric and crustal metamorphic fluid inflow, and in response to fault creep, leads to high-conductivity zones developing as fault zone conductors in the brittle portion of crust. In turn, the absence of crustal fluid pathways may be characteristic for mechanically locked segments of the fault. Here, MT models suggest that fluids are trapped at depth and kept at high pressures. We speculate that fluids may infiltrate neighboring rocks and in their wake induce non-volcanic tremor.


Magnetotellurics San Andreas Fault Fluids 



We wish to express our sincere thanks to the Program Committee and LOC of the Giza workshop, who offered us a chance to prepare and deliver this review. We also thank the guest editors of the review volume, T. Korja and N. Palshin, for their guidance and patience, and two reviewers for their constructive comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences PotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Institute of GeophysicsWWUMünsterGermany

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