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Constraints on the stress state of the San Andreas fault with analysis based on core and cuttings from SAFOD drilling phases 1 and 2

December 31, 2009

Analysis of field data has led different investigators to conclude that the San Andreas Fault (SAF) has either anomalously low frictional sliding strength (μ < 0.2) or strength consistent with standard laboratory tests (μ > 0.6). Arguments for the apparent weakness of the SAF generally hinge on conceptual models involving intrinsically weak gouge or elevated pore pressure within the fault zone. Some models assert that weak gouge and/or high pore pressure exist under static conditions while others consider strength loss or fluid pressure increase due to rapid coseismic fault slip. The present paper is composed of three parts. First, we develop generalized equations, based on and consistent with the Rice (1992) fault zone model to relate stress orientation and magnitude to depth‐dependent coefficient of friction and pore pressure. Second, we present temperature‐ and pressure‐dependent friction measurements from wet illite‐rich fault gouge extracted from San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) phase 1 core samples and from weak minerals associated with the San Andreas Fault. Third, we reevaluate the state of stress on the San Andreas Fault in light of new constraints imposed by SAFOD borehole data. Pure talc (μ≈0.1) had the lowest strength considered and was sufficiently weak to satisfy weak fault heat flow and stress orientation constraints with hydrostatic pore pressure. Other fault gouges showed a systematic increase in strength with increasing temperature and pressure. In this case, heat flow and stress orientation constraints would require elevated pore pressure and, in some cases, fault zone pore pressure in excess of vertical stress.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2009
Title Constraints on the stress state of the San Andreas fault with analysis based on core and cuttings from SAFOD drilling phases 1 and 2
DOI 10.1029/2008JB005883
Authors Cheryl Tembe, David A. Lockner, Teng-fong Wong
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth
Index ID 70189840
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center