pure and applied geophysics

, Volume 124, Issue 1–2, pp 79–106 | Cite as

Implications for mechanical properties of brittle faults from observations of the Punchbowl fault zone, California

  • F. M. Chester
  • J. M. Logan


Field observations of the Punchbowl fault zone, an inactive trace of the San Andreas, are integrated with results from experimental deformation of naturally deformed Punchbowl fault rocks for a qualitative description of the mechanical properties of the fault and additional information for conceptual models of crustal faulting. The Punchbowl fault zone consists of a single, continuous gouge layer bounded by zones of extensively damaged host rock. Fault displacements were not only localized to the gouge layer, but also to discrete shear surfaces within the gouge. Deformation in the exposure studied probably occurred at depths of 2 to 4 km and was dominated by cataclastic mechanisms. Textural data also suggest that significant amounts of pore fluids were present during faulting, and that fluid-assisted mechanisms, such as dissolution, diffusion, and precipitation, were operative.

The experimental data on specimens collected from the fault zone suggest that there is a gradual decrease in strength and elastic modulus and an increase in relative ductility and permeability toward the main gouge zone. The gouge layer has fairly uniform mechanical properites, and it has significantly lower strength, elastic modulus, and permeability than both the damaged and the undeformed host rock.

For the Punchbowl fault and possibly other brittle faults, the variations in loading of the gouge zone with time are primarily governed by the morphology of the fault and the mechanical properties of the damaged host rock. In addition, the damaged zone acts as the permeable unit of the fault zone and surrounding rock. It appears that the gouge primarily governs whether displacements are localized, and it therefore may have a significant influence on the mode of slip.

Key words

Deformation faults cataclasis gouge rock mechanics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allegre, C. J., Le Mouel, J. L. andProvost, A. (1982),Scaling rules in rock fracture and possible implications for earthquake prediction. Nature297, 47–49.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, J. L., Osborne, R. H. andPalmer, D. F. (1983),Cataclastic rocks of the San Gabriel fault: An expression of deformation at deeper levels in the San Andreas fault zone. Tectonophys.98, 209–251.Google Scholar
  3. Atkinson, B. K. (1984),Subcritical crack growth in geological materials. J. Geophys. Res.89, 4077–4114.Google Scholar
  4. Chester, F. M.,Mechanical Properties and Fabric of the Punchbowl Fault Zone, California. M. S. Thesis, Texas A&M Univ., Texas, 1983.Google Scholar
  5. Chester, F. M. (1985),Correlation of halite gouge texture with sliding mode and velocity dependence in experimental faults (Abstr.). EOS, Trans. Am. Geophys. Union.66, 1100–1101.Google Scholar
  6. Chester, F. M., Friedman, M. andLogan, J. M. (1985).Foliated cataclasites. Tectonophys.111, 139–146.Google Scholar
  7. Chester, F. M. andLogan, J. M. (1986),Cataclastic shear fabric of the Punchbowl fault zone, California. Submitted to P. R. Cobbold, D. Gapais and W. D. Means (eds.), Spec. issue on Shear Criteria in Rocks. J. Struct. Geol.Google Scholar
  8. Cox, B. F., Powell, R. E., Hinkle, M. E. andLipton, D. A. (1983),Mineral resource potential map of the Pleasant View roadless area, Los Angeles County, California. U.S. Geol. Surv. Map MF-1649-A, scale 1∶62,500.Google Scholar
  9. Dibblee, T. W., Jr. (1968), ‘Displacements on the San Andreas fault system in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto Mountains, southern California’, inProc. Conf. Geol. Problems San Andreas Fault System. Stanford Univ. Pubs. Geol. Sci.11, 260–276.Google Scholar
  10. Dieterich, J. H. (1978),Time-dependent friction and the mechanics of stick-slip. Pure Appl. Geophys.116, 790–806.Google Scholar
  11. Dieterich, J. H. andConrad, G. (1984), ‘Effect of humidity on time- and velocity-dependent friction in rocks’, in S. H. Kirby and C. H. Scholz, (eds.),Chemical Effects of Water on the Strength and Deformation of Crustal Rocks. J. Geophys. Res.89, 4196–4202.Google Scholar
  12. Engelder, J. T. (1974),Cataclasis and the generation of fault gouge. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull.85, 1515–1522.Google Scholar
  13. Flinn, D. (1977),Transcurrent faults and associated cataclasis in Shetland. J. Geol. Soc. London133, 231–248.Google Scholar
  14. Handin, J., Friedman, M., Logan, J. M., Pattison, L. J. andSwolfs, H. S. (1972), ‘Experimental folding of rocks under pressure — Buckling of single layer beams’, inFlow and Fracture of Rocks. Geophys. Monogr. Am. Geophys. Union16, 1–28.Google Scholar
  15. Handin, J., Hager, Jr., R. V., Friedman, M. andFeather, J. N. (1963),Experimental deformation of sedimentary rocks under confining pressure pore pressure tests. Am. Assoc. Pet. Geol.47, 717–755.Google Scholar
  16. Jackson, R. E., andDunn, D. E. (1974),Experimental sliding friction and cataclasis of foliated rocks. Int. J. Rock Mech. Min. Sci. Geomech. Abstr.11, 235–249.Google Scholar
  17. Kragelskii, I. V.,Friction and Wear. Butterworths, Washington, D.C. 1965.Google Scholar
  18. Logan, J. M., Friedman, M., Higgs, N. G., Dengo, C. andShimamoto, T. (1979), ‘Experimental studies of simulated gouge and their application to studies of natural fault gouge’, inProc. Conf. VIII Anal. Actual Fault Zones Bedrock. U.S. Geol. Surv. Open-file Rept. 79-1239, 305–343.Google Scholar
  19. Logan, J. M., Higgs, N. G., andFriedman, M. (1981), ‘Laboratory studies on natural fault gouge from the U.S. Geological Survey Dry Lake Valley No. 1 Well, San Andreas fault zone’, inMechanical Behavior of Crustal Rocks: The Handin Volume. Geophys. Monogr. Am. Geophys. Union24, 121–134.Google Scholar
  20. Mawer, C. K. andWilliams, P. F. (1985),Crystalline rocks as possible paleoseismicity indicators. Geology13, 100–102.Google Scholar
  21. Miyashiro, A.,Metamorphism and Metamorphic Belts. Allen and Unwin, London, 1973.Google Scholar
  22. Morrow, C. A., Shi, L. Q., andByerlee, J. D. (1982),Strain hardening and strength of clay-rich fault gouges. J. Geophys. Res.87, 6771–6780.Google Scholar
  23. Muller, G., ‘Diagenesis of argillaceous sediments’, inDiagenesis in Sediments, Developments in Sedimentology 8, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1967, Chap. 4.Google Scholar
  24. Noble, L. F. (1954),Geology of the Valyermo quadrangle and vicinity, California. U.S. Geol. Surv. Quad. Map GQ-50, scale 1∶24,000.Google Scholar
  25. Paterson, M. S.,Experimental Rock Deformation: The Brittle Field. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1978.Google Scholar
  26. Ramsay, J. G. (1980),The crack-seal mechanisms of rock deformation. Nature,284, 135–139.Google Scholar
  27. Reed, J. J. (1964),Mylonites, cataclasites, and associated rocks along the Alpine fault, South Island, New Zealand, N.Z. J. Geol. Geophys. 7, 645–684.Google Scholar
  28. Rice, J. R. (1983),Constitutive relation for fault slip and earthquake instabilities. Pure Appl. Geophys.121, 443–475.Google Scholar
  29. Robertson, E. C. (1982), ‘Continuous formation of gouge and breccia during fault displacement’, inIssues in Rock Mechanics. Proc. Symp. Rock Mech., Am. Inst. Min. Eng.23, 397–404.Google Scholar
  30. Ruina, A. L.,Friction laws and instabilities: A quasistatic analysis of some dry frictional data. Ph.D. Dissertation, Brown Univ., Rhode Island, 1980.Google Scholar
  31. Rutter, E. H. (1983),Pressure solution in nature, theory and experiment. J. Geol. Soc. London140, 725–740.Google Scholar
  32. Sharp, R. V., andSilver, L. T. (1971),Quaternary displacement on the San Andreas and Punchbowl faults at the San Gabriel Mountains, southern California. Geol. Soc. Am. Abstr. Prog. 3, p. 191.Google Scholar
  33. Sibson, R. H. (1979), ‘Fault rocks and structure as indicators of shallow earthquake source processes’, inProc. Conf. VIII, Anal. Actual Fault Zones in Bedrock. U.S. Geol. Surv. Open-file Rept. 79-1239, 276–304.Google Scholar
  34. Sibson, R. H. (1984),Roughness at the base of the seismogenic zone: Contributing factors. J. Geophys. Res.89, 5791–5799.Google Scholar
  35. Smith, D. L., andEvans, B. (1984),Diffusional crack healing in quartz. J. Geophys. Res.89, 4125–4135.Google Scholar
  36. Stearns, D. W., ‘Certain aspects of fracture in naturally deformed rocks’, inRock Mechanics Seminar: Special Report. Air Force, Cambridge Res. Lab., 1968, p. 97–188.Google Scholar
  37. Stierman, D. J. (1984),Geophysical and geological evidence for fracturing, water circulation and chemical alteration in granite rocks adjacent to major strike-slip faults, J. Geophys. Res.89, 5849–5857.Google Scholar
  38. Tchalenko, J. S. (1970),Similarities between shear zones of different magnitudes. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull.81, 1625–1640.Google Scholar
  39. Wang, C. Y. (1984),On the constitution of the San Andreas fault zone in central California. J. Geophys. Res.89, 5858–5866.Google Scholar
  40. Wang, C. Y., andMao, N. (1979),Shearing of saturated clays in rock joints at high confining pressures. Geophys. Res. Lett.6, 825–828.Google Scholar
  41. White, J. C., andWhite, S. H. (1983),Semi-brittle deformation within the Alpine fault zone, New Zealand. J. Struct. Geol.5, 579–589.Google Scholar
  42. Woodburne, M. O. (1975),Cenozoic stratigraphy of the Transverse Ranges and adjacent areas, southern California. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Paper 162.Google Scholar
  43. Wu, F. T. (1978),Mineralogy and physical nature of clay gouge. Pure Appl. Geophys.116, 655–689.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. M. Chester
    • 1
  • J. M. Logan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geology and Geophysics and Center for TectonophysicsTexas A and M UniversityCollege

Personalised recommendations