A New Kinematic Model for Polymodal Faulting: Implications for Fault Connectivity

David Healy, R. E. Rizzo

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Conjugate, or bimodal, fault patterns dominate the geological literature on shear failure. Based on Anderson's (1905) application of the Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion, these patterns have been interpreted from all tectonic regimes, including normal, strike-slip and thrust (reverse) faulting. However, a fundamental limitation of the Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion - and others that assume faults form parallel to the intermediate principal stress - is that only plane strain can result from slip on the conjugate faults. However, deformation in the Earth is widely accepted as being three-dimensional, with truly triaxial stresses and strains. Polymodal faulting, with three or more sets of faults forming and slipping simultaneously, can generate three-dimensional strains from truly triaxial stresses. Laboratory experiments and outcrop studies have verified the occurrence of the polymodal fault patterns in nature. The connectivity of polymodal fault networks differs significantly from conjugate fault networks, and this presents challenges to our understanding of faulting and an opportunity to improve our understanding of seismic hazards and fluid flow. Polymodal fault patterns will, in general, have more connected nodes in 2D (and more branch lines in 3D) than comparable conjugate (bimodal) patterns. The anisotropy of permeability is therefore expected to be very different in rocks with polymodal fault patterns in comparison to conjugate fault patterns, and this has implications for the development of hydrocarbon reservoirs, the genesis of ore deposits and the management of aquifers. In this contribution, I assess the published evidence and models for polymodal faulting before presenting a novel kinematic model for general triaxial strain in the brittle field.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
EventAGU Fall Meeting - Moscone Centre, San Francisco, United States
Duration: 14 Dec 2015 → …


ConferenceAGU Fall Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco
Period14/12/15 → …


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