To evaluate ground deformation resulting from large (~10 m) coseismic strike-slip displacements, we focus on deformation of the Kekerengu fault during the November 2016 Mw 7.8 Kaikōura earthquake in New Zealand. Combining post-earthquake field observations with analysis of high-resolution aerial photography and topographic models, we describe the structural geology and geomorphology of the rupture zone. During the earthquake, fissured pressure bulges (“mole tracks”) initiated at stepovers between synthetic Riedel (R) faults. As slip accumulated, near-surface “rafts” of cohesive clay-rich sediment, bounded by R faults and capped by grassy turf, rotated about a vertical axis and were internally shortened, thus amplifying the bulges. The bulges are flanked by low-angle contractional faults that emplace the shortened mass of detached sediment outward over less-deformed ground. As slip accrued, turf rafts fragmented into blocks bounded by short secondary fractures striking at a high angle to the main fault trace that we interpret to have originated as antithetic Riedel (R¢) faults. Eventually these blocks were dispersed into strongly sheared earth and variably rotated. Along the fault, clockwise rotation of these turf rafts within the rupture zone averaged ~20°–30°, accommodating a finite shear strain of 1.0–1.5 and a distributed strike slip of ~3–4 m. On strike-slip parts of the fault, internal shortening of the rafts averaged 1–2 m parallel to the R faults and ~1 m perpendicular to the main fault trace. Driven by distortional rotation, this contraction of the rafts exceeds the magnitude of fault heave. Turf rafts on slightly transtensional segments of the fault were also bulged and shortened—relationships that can be explained by a kinematic model involving “deformable slats.” In a paleoseismic trench cut perpendicular the fault, one would observe fissures, low-angle thrusts, and steeply dipping strike-slip faults—some cross-cutting one another—yet all may have formed during a single earthquake featuring a large strike-slip displacement.
Coseismic deformation of the ground during large-slip strike-slip ruptures: Finite evolution of “mole tracks”
- PDF LinkPDF
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
T.A. Little, P. Morris, M.P. Hill, J. Kearse, R.J. Van Dissen, J. Manousakis, D. Zekkos, A. Howell; Coseismic deformation of the ground during large-slip strike-slip ruptures: Finite evolution of “mole tracks”. Geosphere 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES02336.1
Download citation file: