Recent field studies provide evidence of fault slip-rate variability over time periods of 10–100 k.y., yet researchers do not know how processes internal to the fault system (e.g., fault reorganization) impact records of fault slip rates. In this study, we directly observed fault-system evolution and measured slip-rate histories within a scaled physical experiment of a dextral strike-slip 15° restraining bend representative of a gentle crustal restraining bend. To assess the degree of slip-rate variability at particular sites along the experimental faults, such as would be revealed in a field study, we tracked fault slip rates at specific locations that advected throughout the experiment with accrued fault slip. Slip rates increased or decreased (5%–25% of the applied velocity) both during fault reorganization (e.g., fault growth and abandonment) and as sites migrated to new structural positions. Sites that advected into the restraining bend showed decreased slip rate. While we expect new fault growth to reduce slip rates along nearby fault segments, we document that the growth of new oblique-slip faults can increase strike-slip rates on nearby fault segments. New oblique-slip thrust faults within the experiment accommodated off-fault convergence and unclamped nearby strike-slip segments. The experimental results show that even under a constant loading rate, slip rates at sites located on stable fault segments can vary due to either reorganization elsewhere in the fault system or site advection.

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