Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 36–44 | Cite as

Fault type analysis along the San Andreas Fault zone: A numerical approach

  • Matrika Prasad KoiralaEmail author
  • Daigoro Hayashi


Finite Element (FE) modeling under plane stress condition is used to analyze the fault type variation with depth along and around the San Andreas Fault (SAF) zone. In this simulation elastic rheology was used and was thought justifiable as the variation in depth from 0.5 km to 20 km was considered. Series of calculations were performed with the variation in domain properties. Three types of models were created based on simple geological map of California, namely, 1) single domain model considering whole California as one homogeneous domain, 2) three domains model including the North American plate, Pacific plate, and SAF zone as separate domains, and 3) Four domains model including the three above plus the Garlock Fault zone. Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion and Byerlee’s law were used for the calculation of failure state. All the models were driven by displacement boundary condition imposing the fixed North American plate and Pacific plate motion along N34°W vector up to the northern terminus of SAF and N50°E vector motion for the subducting the Gorda and Juan de Fuca plates. Our simulated results revealed that as the depth increased, the fault types were generally normal, and at shallow depth greater strike slip and some thrust faults were formed. It is concluded that SAF may be terminated as normal fault at depth although the surface expression is clearly strike slip.


Finite Element modeling plane stress fault type analysis San Andreas Fault zone rock domain properties failure analysis 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Argus, D.F. and Gordon, R.G. 2001. Present tectonic motion across the Coast Ranges and the San Andreas fault system in central California. Geological Society of America Bulletin 113:1580–1592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atwater, T. 1970. Implications of plate tectonics for the Cenozoic tectonic evolution of western North America. Geological Society of America Bulletin 81: 3513–3635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bird, P. and Kong, X. 1994. Computer simulations of California tectonics conform very low strength of major fault. Geological Society of America Bulletin 106: 159–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cai, Y. and Wang, C.Y. 2001. Testing fault models with numerical simulation: example from central California. Tectonophysics 343: 233–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chery, J., Zoback, M.D. and Hassani, R. 2001. An integrated mechanical model of the San Andreas fault in central and northern California. Journal of Geophysical Research 106: 22,051–22,066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crowell, J.C. 1952. Probable large lateral displacement on San Gabriel Fault, southern California. American Association of Petroleum Geologist Bulletin 36: 2026–2035.Google Scholar
  7. d’Alessio, M.A., Johanson, I.A., Bürgmann, R., Schmidt, D.A. and Murray, M.H. 2005. Slicing up the San Francisco Bay Area: Block kinematics and fault slip rate from GPS-derived surface velocities. Journal of Geophysical Research 110(B06403):1–19. doi: 10.1029/2004JB003496.Google Scholar
  8. DeMets, C., Gordon, R.G., Argus, D.F. and Stein, S. 1994. Effects of recent revisions to the geomagnetic reversal time scale on estimates of current plate motions. Geophysical Research Letters 21: 2191–2194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Flesch, L.M., Holt, W.E., Haines, A.J., Wen, L., Shen-Tu B. 2007. The dynamics of western North America: stress magnitudes and the relative role of gravitational potential energy, plate interaction at the boundary and basal tractions. Geophysical Journal International 169: 866–896. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2007.03274.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fuis, G.S., Mooney, W.D. 1990. Lithospheric structure and tectonics from seismic-refraction and other data. in R. E. Wallace, ed., The San Andreas Fault System: U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515: 207–236.Google Scholar
  11. Hayashi, D. 2008. Theoretical basis of FE simulation software package. Bull. Fac. Sci. Univ. Ryukyus, No. 85: 81–95.
  12. Hill, M.L., and Dibblee, T.W., Jr. 1953, San Andreas, Garlock, and Big Pine faults, California-a study of the character, history, and tectonic significance of their displacements. Geological Society of America Bulletin 64(4): 448–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Irwin, W.P. 1990. Geology and Plate-Tectonic Development. in R. E. Wallace, ed., The San Andreas Fault System: U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515: 61–80.Google Scholar
  14. Koirala, M. P. 2008. Numerical simulation of the stress field in California, Implication for the present day plate kinematics, M. Sc. thesis. Simulation Tectonics Laboratory, Faculty of Science, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa, 903-0213, Japan 189 p (Unpublished).Google Scholar
  15. Koirala, M. P. and Hayashi, D. 2008, Numerical Simulation of the stress field in California, Implication for the present day plate Kinematics. Bollettino di Geofisica teorica ed applicata 49(2 supplement): 60–64.Google Scholar
  16. Lynch, J.C., and Richards, M.A. 2001. Finite elements models of the stress orientations in well-developed strike-slip fault zones: Implications for the distribution for lower crustal strain. Journal of Geophysical Research 106: 26,707–26,729.Google Scholar
  17. Malservisi, R., Gans, C. and Furlong, K.P. 2003. Numerical modeling of strike-slip creeping faults and implications for the Heyward fault, California. Tectonophysics 361: 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Minster, J.B. and Jordan, T.H. 1978. Present-day plate motions. Journal of Geophysical Research 83: 5331–6354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Noson, L.L., Qamar, A. and Thorsen, G. W. 1988. Washington State Earthquake Hazards. Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Information Circular 85. <>
  20. Parsons, T. 2006. Tectonic stressing in California modeled from GPS observations. Journal of Geophysical Research 111(B03407): 1–16. doi: 10.1029/2005JB003946.Google Scholar
  21. Powell, R.E. and Weldon, R.J. 1992. Evolution of the San-Andreas Fault. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 20: 431–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Savage, J.C., Gan, W., Prescott, W.H. and Svarc, J.L. 2004. Strain accumulation across the Coast Ranges at the latitude of San Francisco, 1994–2000. Journal of Geophysical Research 109(B03413): 1–11. doi: 10.1029/2003JB002612.Google Scholar
  23. Swanson, D.A., Cameron, K.A., Evarts, R.C., Pringle, P.T. and Vance, J.A. 1989. Cenozoic Volcanism in the Cascade Range and Columbia Plateau, Southern Washington, and Northernmost Oregon: AGU Field Trip Guidebook T106. < /hood.html#mounthood>
  24. Wallace, R.E. 1990. General Features and Geomorphic Expression. in R. E. Wallace, ed., The San Andreas Fault System, U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515: 3–21.Google Scholar
  25. Wood, C.A. and Kienle, J. 1990. Volcanoes of North America: U.S. and Canada. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 354. ISBN 052143811X, 9780521438117.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Simulation Tectonics Laboratory, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of the RyukyusNishihara, OkinawaJapan

Personalised recommendations