Finite element methods are used to model the dynamics of deformation along complex transform plate boundaries, specifically the San Andreas fault system, California. Effects of mantle rheology and fault geometry on the stress buildup and release are investigated. No prior knowledge of the earthquake cycle time or amount of fault slip is assumed and the results suggest that the San Andreas fault slips at low shear stress (≈15 MPa). Although the maximum stress on the fault is 15 MPa, models with an upper mantle shear zone deforming entirely by dislocation creep accumulate stresses that exceed 100 MPa, a stress level high enough to drive localized dynamic recrystallization and a shift in dominant deformation mechanism to diffusion creep. Models in which the mantle shear zone deform locally by diffusion creep reach a dynamic steady state where lithospheric shear stresses never exceed the specified fault stress anywhere in the model and indicate that the strength of the upper mantle is an important parameter in the dynamics of plate boundary deformation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)