Geoscientist Michele Cooke and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst take an uncommon, "Earth is lazy" approach to modeling fault development in the crust that is providing new insights into how faults grow. In particular, they study irregularities along strike-slip faults, the active zones where plates slip past each other such as at the San Andreas Fault of southern California.

Until now there has been a great deal of uncertainty among geologists about the factors that govern how new faults grow in regions where one plate slides past or over another around a bend, says Cooke. In their study published in an early online edition of the Journal of Structural Geology, she and colleagues offer the first systematic exploration of fault evolution around fault bends based on modeling in a clay box.

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