Material and Stress Rotations: Anticipating the 1992 Landers, CA  Earthquake

Friday, 19 December 2014
Amos M Nur, Stanford University, Geophysics, Stanford, CA, United States
"Rotations make nonsense of the two-dimensional reconstructions that are still so popular among structural geologists". (McKenzie, 1990, p. 109-110)

I present a comprehensive tectonic model for the strike-slip fault geometry, seismicity, material rotation, and stress rotation, in which new, optimally oriented faults can form when older ones have rotated about a vertical axis out of favorable orientations. The model was successfully tested in the Mojave region using stress rotation and three independent data sets: the alignment of epicenters and fault plane solutions from the six largest central Mojave earthquakes since 1947, material rotations inferred from paleomagnetic declination anomalies, and rotated dike strands of the Independence dike swarm. The model led not only to the anticipation of the 1992 M7.3 Landers, CA earthquake but also accounts for the great complexity of the faulting and seismicity of this event.

The implication of this model for crustal deformation in general is that rotations of material (faults and the blocks between them) and of stress provide the key link between the complexity of faults systems in-situ and idealized mechanical theory of faulting. Excluding rotations from the kinematical and mechanical analysis of crustal deformation makes it impossible to explain the complexity of what geologists see in faults, or what seismicity shows us about active faults. However, when we allow for rotation of material and stress, Coulomb's law becomes consistent with the complexity of faults and faulting observed in situ.