3 Types of Faults: Normal, Reverse and Strike-Slip
The 3 types of faults are:
- Normal faults
- Reverse faults
- Strike-slip faults
Let’s review the fault types.
An analogy for the 3 types of faults
Think of faults like taking a thick mat and snapping it:
- If it splits with an incline, it’s a dip-slip type of fault
- If it doesn’t have an incline, it’s strike-slip
Now, you have 2 mats. Put them on water so they float against each other. Here’s what could happen with their relative movements:
The upper block moves downward relative to the lower block. (dip-slip)
The upper block moves upward relative to the lower block. (dip-slip)
Both blocks slide horizontally across one another. (Strike-slip)
Now, you can substitute these terms:
- Fault = Fracture in two mats with relative movement
- Dip-slip = Incline split with vertical movement (upwards or downwards)
- Strike-slip = Straight split with horizontal movement (right or left lateral)
- Lithosphere = Floating mat
- Asthenosphere = Water
Speed of Fault Movement
At faults, there is an enormous amount of friction between plates. Like a stretched spring, it stores tremendous potential energy near the fault.
If movement is slow at the fault, it’s called “creep”. By definition, “creep” means the fault is always absent of sudden movements that could create an earthquake.
But if the two plates have a sudden jerky movement, this generates enough force to produce an “earthquake”. At this point, elastic waves shoot outwards which is the force one would feel from an earthquake.
Where do faults occur?
All plate tectonic boundaries are faults because they always have movement relative to each other. By definition, plate tectonics always converge, diverge or slide across each other.
- Normal faults occur at divergent plate boundaries.
- Reverse faults are at convergent plates.
- Strike-slip faults occur at transform plate boundaries.
But faults can occur within plates as fractures as well. For example, the New Madrid Fault is a massive fracture in Missouri. Over time, this fault has caused the Mississippi River to run a different course.
Reverse (thrust) faults are common in areas of compression. For example, reverse thrusts exist in areas with subducting plates such as along the coast of Japan.
How Faults Work
Now, you know the 3 types of faults are:
- Normal fault
- Reverse fault
- Strike-slip fault
Some consider a 4th type of fault:
- Oblique slip fault
Oblique slips are a combination of any of these 3 types of faults.
What else do you want to learn about faults? Please let us know with a comment below.