Abstract

Fault pseudotachylytes form by frictional melting during seismic slip and therefore are widely interpreted as “earthquake fossils.” Rapid movement along a rupture surface typically forms a pseudotachylyte generation vein, the thickness of which increases with earthquake magnitude. The direction and sense of seismic slip cannot always be determined due to the generally complex geometry of pseudotachylyte veins. Here we show, for the first time, that the orientation of the magnetic fabric of fault pseudotachylytes indicates both direction and sense of seismic slip. The magnetic fabric, acquired in a manner similar to that of other magmas, arises in this case from the asymmetric preferred orientation of paramagnetic grains during viscous shear of the friction melt. This kinematic information, coupled with fault plane orientation and generation vein thickness, provides new and critical insight for the earthquake focal mechanism. The magnetic fabric of pseudotachylytes therefore not only constitutes a valuable kinematic criterion for these fault rocks, but also could expand our knowledge of prehistoric seismic events.

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