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Geologic fault
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Geologic fault

 


Old fault exposed by roadcut
near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Such faults are common
in the folded Appalachians

In geology, faults are discontinuities (cracks) in the Earth's crust that are the result of differential motion within the crust. Faults are the source of many earthquakes that are caused by slippage vertically or laterally at the fault. The largest examples are at tectonic plate boundaries, but many small faults are known to exist that are far from active plate boundaries.

The two sides of a fault are called the hangingwall and footwall. By definition, the fault always dips away from the footwall. Faults can be categorised into three groups: normal faults, transform (or strike-slip) faults and reverse (or thrust) faults.

Table of contents
1 Normal (or detachment) fault
2 Reverse (or thrust) fault
3 Strike-slip faults
4 See also

Normal (or detachment) fault

This occurs when the crust is in tension. The hangingwall moves downwards (i.e. towards the centre of the Earth) relative to the footwall. The depressed ground between two parallel normal faults is called a graben. A ridge between two parallel normal faults is called a horst.

Reverse (or thrust) fault

This occurs when the crust is in compression. The hangingwall moves upwards (i.e. away from the centre of the Earth) relative to the footwall.

Strike-slip faults

The fault surface is vertical and the footwall moves either left or right (with respect to the plane perpendicular to the fault and to the Earth's surface). Strike-slip faults with left-lateral motion are also known as sinistral faults. Those with right-lateral motion are also known as dextral faults.

See also