Normal faults are commonly segmented along strike, with segments that localize strain and influence propagation of slip during earthquakes. Although the geometry of segments can be constrained by fault mapping, it is challenging to determine seismically relevant segments along a fault zone. Because slip histories, geometries, and strengths of linkages between normal fault segments fundamentally control the propagation of rupture during earthquakes, and differences in segment slip rates result in differential uplift of adjacent footwalls, we used along-strike changes in footwall morphology to detect fault segments and the relative strength of the mechanical links between them.
We applied a new geomorphic analysis protocol to the Wassuk Range fault, Nevada, within the actively deforming Walker Lane. The protocol examines characteristics of footwall morphology, including range-crest continuity, bedrock-channel long profiles, catchment area variability, and footwall relief, to detect changes in strike-parallel footwall characteristics. Results revealed six domains with significant differences in morphology that we used to identify seismically relevant fault segments and segment boundaries. We integrated our results with previous studies to determine relative strength of links between the six segments, informing seismic hazard assessment. When combined with recent geodetic studies, our results have implications for the future evolution of the Walker Lane, suggesting changes in the accommodation of strain across the region. Our analysis demonstrates the power of this method to efficiently detect along-strike changes in footwall morphology related to fault behavior, permitting future researchers to perform reconnaissance assessment of normal fault segmentation worldwide.