Models of the Evolution of Finite Strain at Strike-Slip Plate Boundaries and Potential Implications for Seismic Anisotropy

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Ivan Kurz, University of Florida, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States and Mousumi Roy, Univ New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, United States
While we are aware of the extent and distribution of strain at the surface near the Pacific-North America plate boundary at the San Andreas Fault (SAF) system in California, at depth, our understanding is poor. Recent seismic observations suggest a narrow shear zone throughout the lithosphere corresponding to the narrow plate boundary at the surface. Surrounding the SAF in California, measurements of seismic anisotropy demonstrate orientations which vary depending on the location relative to the fault. Specifically, in northern California, the orientations align along the fault in its proximity, and in the east-west direction elsewhere. We investigate how the finite-strain ellipsoid (FSE) evolves for tracers in a 3D model of the lithosphere and asthenosphere beneath the SAF. The top surface of the mesh has a right-lateral strike-slip velocity boundary condition, and the bottom, a uniform asthenospheric flow velocity condition perpendicular to the strike-slip fault. We calculate the orientations of the FSE for various ratios of strike-slip to asthenospheric velocity and viscosity stratification. The two classes of models which we investigate simulate an asthenospheric channel beneath a uniform-thickness lithosphere and a variable-depth lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB). In an isoviscous fluid beneath a uniform-thickness lithosphere, strain rates, and thus FSE orientations, are constant throughout the channel, dependent on the ratio of the velocities but not the viscosity. For a two-layered asthenospheric channel of a higher-viscosity layer overlying a lower-viscosity layer, FSE orientations align with the strike-slip boundary in the upper layer and the drag in the lower layer. When we emulate a lithosphere of variable thickness across the fault by increasing the viscosity of the upper layer, we observe asymmetric FSE orientations across the step in the LAB. The direction of lithospheric thickening across the strike-slip fault govern these orientations. Following these investigations, we interpret the direction of maximum strain of the FSE as the preferred direction of a-type anisotropy in the region of the SAF system and analogous strike-slip fault systems.