Estimate of differential stress in the upper crust from variations in topography and strike along the San Andreas fault
The major bends of the San Andreas fault in California are associated with significant variations in the along-fault topography. The topography-induced perturbations in the intermediate principal stress may result in the rotation of the fault with respect to the maximum compression axis provided that the fault is non-vertical, and the slip is horizontal. The progressive fault rotation may produce additional topography via thrust faulting in the adjacent crust, resulting in a positive feedback. The observed rotation of the fault plane due to the along-fault variations in topography is used to infer the magnitude of the in situ differential stress. Our results suggest that the average differential stress in the upper crust around the San Andreas fault is of the order of 50 MPa, implying that the effective fault strength is about a factor of two lower than predictions based on Byerlee's law and the assumption of hydrostatic pore pressure.