The Physical Environment
                                          Contents | Glossary | Atlas |  Index | TPE Today | Google Earth | Search

Tectonics and Landforms


When enormous stresses build and push large intact rock masses beyond their yield limit, faulting of the surface is likely to occur.  A fault is a fracture along which movement occurs. The plane that extends into the earth and along which slippage occurs is called the fault plane. The fault dip is the angle from horizontal that the fault plane makes. The map direction that the fault takes is called the strike, measured east or west of true north. Generally, two walls are distinguished, the footwall and hanging wall. The hanging wall moves horizontally, vertically, or in both directions relative to the footwall. We identify the hanging and foot walls relative to the fault plane. The hanging wall is above the fault plane while the foot wall is below. The steep face of an exposed block is called the fault scarp. The fault line is the trace of the fault along the surface

fault scarpFigure 15.27 Red Canyon fault scarp near Red Canyon Creek, Montana (Courtesy USGS)
Click image to enlarge

Faults can be traced for thousands of kilometers across the surface at tens of kilometers in depth. The sudden slippage of rock masses past one another results in shock waves that we feel as an earthquake. For information about earthquakes see "How Earthquakes Occur" by the USGS.


Figure 15.28 Features of  Faults (normal fault depicted)
Click image to enlarge

Previous | Continue     

Contents |Glossary | Atlas Index  |  Blog | Podcast | Google Earth | Search Updates | Top of page

About TPE | Who's Used TPE |  Earth Online Media

Please contact the author for inquiries, permissions, corrections or other feedback.

For Citation: Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography.
Date visited.  ../title_page.html

Help keep this site available by donating through PayPal.


Michael Ritter (
Last revised 6/5/12

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.