Fault rupture propagation through sand: Finite-element analysis and validation through centrifuge experiments

I. Anastasopoulos, G. Gazetas, M. F. Bransby, M. C.R. Davies, A. El Nahas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Citations (Scopus)


The three notorious earthquakes of 1999 in Turkey (Kocaeli and Düzce) and Taiwan (Chi-Chi), having offered numerous examples of surface fault rupturing underneath civil engineering structures, prompted increased interest in the subject. This paper develops a nonlinear finite-element methodology to study dip-slip ("normal" and "reverse") fault rupture propagation through sand. The procedure is verified through successful Class A predictions of four centrifuge model tests. The validated methodology is then utilized in a parametric study of fault rupture propagation through sand. Emphasis is given to results of engineering significance, such as: (1) the location of fault outcropping; (2) the vertical displacement profile of the ground surface; and (3) the minimum fault offset at bedrock necessary for the rupture to reach the ground surface. The analysis shows that dip-slip faults refract at the soil-rock interface, initially increasing in dip. Normal faults may keep increasing their dip as they approach the ground surface, as a function of the peak friction angle φp and the angle of dilation ψp. In contrast, reverse faults tend to decrease in dip, as they emerge on the ground surface. For small values of the base fault offset, h, relative to the soil thickness, H, a dip-slip rupture cannot propagate all the way to the surface. The h/H ratio required for outcropping is an increasing function of soil "ductility." Reverse faults require significantly higher h/H to outcrop, compared to normal faults. When the rupture outcrops, the height of the fault scrap, s, also depends on soil ductility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)943-958
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


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