Segmentation and the coseismic behavior of Basin and Range normal faults: examples from east-central Idaho and southwestern Montana, U.S.A.
The range-front normal faults of the Lost River and Lemhi Ranges, and the Beaverhead and Tendoy Mountains in east-central Idaho and southwestern Montana have well-preserved fault scarps on Quaternary deposits along much of their lengths. Fault-scarp morphology, the age of deposits displaced by the faults, and the morphology of the range fronts provide a basis for dividing the faults into segments that are typically 20-25 km long. The Lost River, Lemhi and Beaverhead fault zones are 141-151 km long, and each has six segments. The 60-km-long Red Rock fault (the range-front fault of the Tendoy Mountains) has two central segments that have been active in late Quaternary time; these two segments span the central 27 km of the fault. We recognize four characteristics that help to identify segment boundaries: (1) major en échelon offsets or pronounced gaps in the continuity of fault scarps; (2) distinct, persistent, along-strike changes in fault-scarp morphology that indicate different ages of faulting; (3) major salients in the range front; and (4) transverse bedrock ridges where the cumulative throw is low compared to other places along the fault zone. Only features whose size is measured on the scale of kilometers are regarded as significant enough to represent a segment boundary that could inhibit or halt a propagating rupture. The ability to identify segments of faults that are likely to behave as independent structural entities will improve seismic-hazard assessment. However, one should not assume that the barriers at segment boundaries will completely stop all propagating ruptures. The topographic expression of mountain ranges is evidence that, at times during their history, all barriers fail. Some barriers apparently create 'leaky' segment boundaries that impede propagating ruptures but do not completely prevent faulting on adjacent segments.