The Role of Coseismic Coulomb Stress Changes in Shaping the Hard Link Between Normal Fault Segments

Michael Hodge*, Ake Fagereng, Juliet Biggs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
460 Downloads (Pure)


The mechanism and evolution of fault linkage is important in the growth and development of large faults. Here we investigate the role of coseismic stress changes in shaping the hard links between parallel normal fault segments (or faults), by comparing numerical models of the Coulomb stress change from simulated earthquakes on two en echelon fault segments to natural observations of hard-linked fault geometry. We consider three simplified linking fault geometries: (1) fault bend, (2) breached relay ramp, and (3) strike-slip transform fault. We consider scenarios where either one or both segments rupture and vary the distance between segment tips. Fault bends and breached relay ramps are favored where segments underlap or when the strike-perpendicular distance between overlapping segments is less than 20% of their total length, matching all 14 documented examples. Transform fault linkage geometries are preferred when overlapping segments are laterally offset at larger distances. Few transform faults exist in continental extensional settings, and our model suggests that propagating faults or fault segments may first link through fault bends or breached ramps before reaching sufficient overlap for a transform fault to develop. Our results suggest that Coulomb stresses arising from multisegment ruptures or repeated earthquakes are consistent with natural observations of the geometry of hard links between parallel normal fault segments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-814
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Coulomb stress
  • stress
  • faults
  • relay ramps
  • rifts
  • earthquakes


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