The evolution of faults formed by shearing across joint zones in sandstone
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Abstract:

AbstractThe evolution of strike-slip and normal faults formed by slip along joint zones is documented by detailed field studies in the Jurassic Aztec Sandstone in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA. Zones of closely spaced planar sub-parallel joints arranged en ├ęchelon are sheared, forming faults. Fracturing occurs as a result of shearing, forming new joints. Later shearing along these joints leads to successively formed small faults and newer joints. This process is repeated through many generations of fracturing with increasing fault slip producing a hierarchical array of structures. Strain localization produced by shearing of joint zones at irregularities in joint traces, fracture intersections, and in the span between adjacent sheared joints results in progressive fragmentation of the weakened sandstone, which leads to the formation of gouge along the fault zone. The length and continuity of the gouge and associated slip surfaces is related to the slip magnitude and fault geometry with slip ranging from several millimeters to about 150 m. Distributed damage in a zone surrounding the gouge core is related to the original joint zone configuration (step sense, individual sheared joint overlaps and separation), shear sense, and slip magnitude. Our evolutionary model of fault development helps to explain some outstanding issues concerning complexities in faulting such as, the variability in development of fault rock and fault related fractures, and the failure processes in faults.

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