Reference Work Entry


Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Science pp 346-351

Fault scarp, fault-line scarp

  • Rhodes W. Fairbridge

“Scarp” is an abbreviation for “escarpment” meaning an abrupt rise in relief, a cliff or cuesta. The abbreviated form has been used at least from the days of Hutton and Playfair. Although the terms are, strictly speaking, synonymous, scarp is more commonly limited nowadays in North America to cliffs associated with faulting; in Britain, no distinction is made between the two words (Stamp, 1961).

A fault scarp is one where the footwall surface is exposed; in other words, the feature must be very fresh, so that erosion has not destroyed all traces of the actual plane of the fault (Fig. 1). The latter is marked by slickensides, or striations, and polished surfaces (from “slick,” meaning smooth), intersected by minute steps (1–3 mm high) which drop away in the direction of movement (Fig. 2). The slickensides may be preserved in silica or in calcite. The direction of the slickenside striations shows the last motion on the fault, but since ...

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