Structures associated with strike-slip faults that bound landslide elements

Engineering Geology



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Large landslides are bounded on their flanks and on elements within the landslides by structures analogous to strike-slip faults. We observed the formation of thwse strike-slip faults and associated structures at two large landslides in central Utah during 1983-1985. The strike-slip faults in landslides are nearly vertical but locally may dip a few degrees toward or away from the moving ground. Fault surfaces are slickensided, and striations are subparallel to the ground surface. Displacement along strike-slip faults commonly produces scarps; scarps occur where local relief of the failure surface or ground surface is displaced and becomes adjacent to higher or lower ground, or where the landslide is thickening or thinning as a result of internal deformation. Several types of structures are formed at the ground surface as a strike-slip fault, which is fully developed at some depth below the ground surface, propagates upward in response to displacement. The simplest structure is a tension crack oriented at 45?? clockwise or counterclockwise from the trend of an underlying right- or left-lateral strike-slip fault, respectively. The tension cracks are typically arranged en echelon with the row of cracks parallel to the trace of the underlying strike-slip fault. Another common structure that forms above a developing strike-slip fault is a fault segment. Fault segments are discontinuous strike-slip faults that contain the same sense of slip but are turned clockwise or counterclockwise from a few to perhaps 20?? from the underlying strike-slip fault. The fault segments are slickensided and striated a few centimeters below the ground surface; continued displacement of the landslide causes the fault segments to open and a short tension crack propagates out of one or both ends of the fault segments. These structures, open fault segments containing a short tension crack, are termed compound cracks; and the short tension crack that propagates from the tip of the fault segment is typically oriented 45?? to the trend of the underlying fault. Fault segments are also typically arranged en echelon above the upward-propagating strike-slip fault. Continued displacement of the landslide causes the ground to buckle between the tension crack portions of the compound cracks. Still more displacement produces a thrust fault on one or both limbs of the buckle fold. These compressional structures form at right angles to the short tension cracks at the tips of the fault segments. Thus, the compressional structures are bounded on their ends by one face of a tension crack and detached from underlying material by thrusting or buckling. The tension cracks, fault segments, compound cracks, folds, and thrusts are ephemeral; they are created and destroyed with continuing displacement of the landslide. Ultimately, the structures are replaced by a throughgoing strike-slip fault. At one landslide, we observed the creation and destruction of the ephemeral structures as the landslide enlarged. Displacement of a few centimeters to about a decimeter was sufficient to produce scattered tension cracks and fault segments. Sets of compound cracks with associated folds and thrusts were produced by displacements of up to 1 m, and 1 to 2 m of displacement was required to produce a throughgoing strike-slip fault. The type of first-formed structure above an upward-propagating strike-slip fault is apparently controlled by the rheology of the material. Brittle material such as dry topsoil or the compact surface of a gravel road produces echelon tension cracks and sets of tension cracks and compressional structures, wherein the cracks and compressional structures are normal to each other and 45?? to the strike-slip fault at depth. First-formed structures in more ductile material such as moist cohesive soil are fault segments. In very ductile material such as soft clay and very wet soil in swampy areas, the first-formed structure is a throughgoing strike-slip fault. There are othe

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Structures associated with strike-slip faults that bound landslide elements
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Engineering Geology
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