Field Observation
Tectonic Geomorphology and Exhumed Faults

Even though Active Tectonics is the study of the real-time behavior of geologic systems, we can often enhance our understanding of these systems by looking at faults at a variety of different temporal and spatial scales.

GPS and InSAR can tell us about the current rates of fault movement but we know that these rates change over a range of time scales and field observations can give us better ideas of those chages. A fault that appears locked on a day-to-day basis might move violently in an earthquake once every century followed by slow creep called "afterslip" that can last for a decade. Millions of years later, the regional tectonics can change and that fault will never move again. By looking at long term features such as abandoned river terraces that have been offset by faulting we can begin to understand the longer term behavior of faults.

Field observation can also be accomplished at a variety of different spatial scales. Geodetic methods such as GPS and InSAR can determine the general behavior of faults but they lack the ability to zoom in and look at some of the finer scale processes that control these behaviors. By examining faults that have been brought to the surface through uplift and erosion we can directly observe some of these features.

For more information about how we use field observations, visit our Research Projects Page