Abstract

Field mapping and lidar analysis of surface faulting patterns expressed in flights of geologically similar fluvial terraces at the well-known Branch River and Saxton River sites along the Wairau (Alpine) and Awatere strike-slip faults, South Island, New Zealand, reveal that fault-related deformation patterns expressed in the topography at these sites are markedly less structurally complex along the higher-displacement (hundreds of kilometers), structurally mature Wairau fault than along the Awatere fault (∼13–20 km total slip). These differences, which are generally representative of the surface traces of these faults, provide direct evidence that surface faulting becomes structurally simpler with increasing cumulative fault offset. We also examine the degree to which off-fault deformation (OFD) is expressed in the landscape at the Saxton River site along the less structurally mature Awatere fault. Significantly greater amounts of OFD are discernible as a wide damage zone (∼460 m fault-perpendicular width) in older (ca. 15 ka), more-displaced (64–74 m) fluvial terraces than in younger (ca. 1–7 ka), less-displaced (<55 m) terraces; no OFD is discernible in the lidar data on the least-displaced (<35 m) terraces. From this, we infer that OFD becomes progressively more geomorphically apparent with accumulating displacement. These observations imply that (1) the processes that accommodate OFD are active during each earthquake, but may not be evident in deposits that have experienced relatively small displacements; (2) structures accommodating OFD will become progressively geomorphically clearer with increasing displacement; (3) geomorphic measurements of overall fault zone width taken in deposits that have experienced small displacements will be underestimates; and (4) fault slip rates based on geomorphic surface offsets will be underestimates for immature faults if based solely on measurements along the high-strain fault core.

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