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Transform faults and lithospheric structure : insights from numerical models and shipboard and geodetic observations


In this dissertation, I study the influence of transform faults on the structure and deformation of the lithosphere, using shipboard and geodetic observations as well as numerical experiments. I use marine topography, gravity, and magnetics to examine the effects of the large age- offset Andrew Bain transform fault on accretionary processes within two adjacent segments of the Southwest Indian Ridge. I infer from morphology, high gravity, and low magnetization that the extremely cold and thick lithosphere associated with the Andrew Bain strongly suppresses melt production and crustal emplacement to the west of the transform fault. These effects are counteracted by enhanced temperature and melt production near the Marion Hotspot, east of the transform fault. I use numerical models to study the development of lithospheric shear zones underneath continental transform faults (e.g. the San Andreas Fault in California), with a particular focus on thermomechanical coupling and shear heating produced by long-term fault slip. I find that these processes may give rise to long-lived localized shear zones, and that such shear zones may in part control the magnitude of stress in the lithosphere. Localized ductile shear participates in both interseismic loading and postseismic relaxation, and predictions of models including shear zones are within observational constraints provided by geodetic and surface heat flow data. I numerically investigate the effects of shear zones on three-dimensional postseismic deformation. I conclude that the presence of a thermally-activated shear zone minimally impacts postseismic deformation, and that thermomechanical coupling alone is unable to generate sufficient localization for postseismic relaxation within a ductile shear zone to kinematically resemble that by aseismic fault creep (afterslip). I find that the current record geodetic observations of postseismic deformation do not provide robust discriminating power between candidate linear and power-law rheologies for the sub-Mojave Desert mantle, but longer observations may potentially allow such discrimination

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