Slip accumulation and lateral propagation of active normal faults in Afar

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Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth
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Jul 10
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We investigate fault growth in Afar, where normal fault systems are known to be currently growing fast and most are propagating to the northwest. Using digital elevation models, we have examined the cumulative slip distribution along 255 faults with lengths ranging from 0.3 to 60 km. Faults exhibiting the elliptical or "bell-shaped" slip profiles predicted by simple linear elastic fracture mechanics or elastic-plastic theories are rare. Most slip profiles are roughly linear for more than half of their length, with overall slopes always <0.035. For the dominant population of NW striking faults and fault systems longer than 2 km, the slip profiles are asymmetric, with slip being maximum near the eastern ends of the profiles where it drops abruptly to zero, whereas slip decreases roughly linearly and tapers in the direction of overall Aden rift propagation. At a more detailed level, most faults appear to be composed of distinct, shorter subfaults or segments, whose slip profiles, while different from one to the next, combine to produce the roughly linear overall slip decrease along the entire fault. On a larger scale, faults cluster into kinematically coupled systems, along which the slip on any scale individual fault or fault system complements that of its neighbors, so that the total slip of the whole system is roughly linearly related to its length, with an average slope again <0.035. We discuss the origin of these quasilinear, asymmetric profiles in terms of "initiation points" where slip starts, and "barriers" where fault propagation is arrested. In the absence of a barrier, slip apparently extends with a roughly linear profile, tapered in the direction of fault propagation.


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