Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Stress in the lithosphere from non-tectonic loads with implications for plate boundary processes

  • Author(s): Luttrell, Karen M
  • et al.

Stress in the lithosphere from non-tectonic loads is calculated, making use of semi-analytic Fourier models. Sources of non-tectonic stress include coastal lithospheric bending in response to the rise in eustatic sea level since the Last Glacial Maximum, lithospheric rebound and pore pressure changes in response to the intermittent load of Ancient Lake Cahuilla in the Salton trough, stress sustained through the formation and long-term support of local short-wavelength topography, and topography created by the ejecta debris from impact craters on the surface of the icy Galilean satellites. Stresses from time varying surface water loads are calculated along major plate boundaries globally to determine to what extent, if any, these loads influence the major tectonic processes at work in plate boundary regions, such as the earthquake cycle on major faults. It is determined that the stress perturbations from these loads are generally an order of magnitude smaller than the tectonic stress accumulation rate. Their ability to noticeably affect the seismic cycle is therefore restricted to specific circumstances including when the tectonic loading rate is particularly low, such as along secondary plate boundary fault structures, when the non-tectonic loading rate is particularly high, such as in the case of catastrophic flooding events, or when the fault in question is already critically stressed to a near-failure level. Stresses from local topography are calculated along the global mid-ocean ridge and along the Chilean subduction megathrust. The predicted orientations of these stresses are compared to a presumed ridge-normal and transform-strike-slip faulting regime or the focal mechanism of a single large earthquake, respectively. Quantitative constraints for the coincident tectonic stresses are subsequently established with implications for the strength of the plate boundary faults and the necessity of particular topographic and bathymetric features.

Main Content
Current View