Understanding the stress field surrounding and driving active fault systems is an important component of mechanistic seismic hazard assessment. We develop and present results from a time-forward three-dimensional (3-D) model of the San Andreas fault system near its Big Bend in southern California. The model boundary conditions are assessed by comparing model and observed tectonic regimes. The model of earthquake generation along two fault segments is used to target measurable properties (e.g., stress orientations, heat flow) that may allow inferences on the stress state on the faults. It is a quasi-static model, where GPS-constrained tectonic loading drives faults modeled as mostly sealed viscoelastic bodies embedded in an elastic half-space subjected to compaction and shear creep. A transpressive tectonic regime develops southwest of the model bend as a result of the tectonic loading and migrates toward the bend because of fault slip. The strength of the model faults is assessed on the basis of stress orientations, stress drop, and overpressures, showing a departure in the behavior of 3-D finite faults compared to models of 1-D or homogeneous infinite faults. At a smaller scale, stress transfers from fault slip transiently induce significant perturbations in the local stress tensors (where the slip profile is very heterogeneous). These stress rotations disappear when subsequent model earthquakes smooth the slip profile. Maps of maximum absolute shear stress emphasize both that (1) future models should include a more continuous representation of the faults and (2) that hydrostatically pressured intact rock is very difficult to break when no material weakness is considered. Copyright 2004 by the American Geophysical Union.
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New insights on stress rotations from a forward regional model of the San Andreas fault system near its Big Bend in southern California