Initiation of Strike-Slip Faults, Serpentinization, and Methane: The Nootka Fault Zone, the Juan de Fuca-Explorer Plate Boundary

Kristin M.M. Rohr, Kevin P. Furlong, Michael Riedel

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The Nootka fault zone is a ridge-trench-trench transform fault that was initiated ~4 Ma when the Explorer ridge became independent of the Juan de Fuca ridge. Multibeam data around the fault zone and a compilation of several seismic reflection surveys provide insight into initiation of strike-slip faults. Previous interpretations assumed that the two faults seen cutting the seafloor are subparallel to shear between the Explorer and Juan de Fuca plates and formed instantaneously at 4 Ma. Increased data density shows that these faults are subparallel to seafloor magnetic anomalies and appear to have utilized extensional faults formed at the ridge. They are surrounded by numerous buried steeply dipping, small-offset growth faults; at least some of which are likely still active. Our observations corroborate analogue models of strike-slip fault initiation that predict formation of Riedel-like shears within a zone of faulting and that displacement localizes over time. The existence of several long subparallel faults and a very wide zone of faulting has been predicted by models of distributed shear at depth. Along the Nootka fault zone basement has risen by several hundred meters and bright reversed-polarity reflectors some of which are interpreted to be methane hydrate reflectors are common. Hydration, likely as serpentinization, of the upper mantle could explain both sets of observations: Serpentinization can result in a 30–50% volume expansion and methane is observed in vents driven by this process. Biogenic sources of methane are likely to be present and concentrated by currently active fluid flow in the faulted sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4290-4312
Number of pages23
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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