Morphologic dating of fault scarps using airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM) data

G. E. Hilley, S. Delong, C. Prentice, K. Blisniuk, Ramon Arrowsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Models of fault scarp morphology have been previously used to infer the relative age of different fault scarps in a fault zone using labor-intensive ground surveying. We present a method for automatically extracting scarp morphologic ages within high-resolution digital topography. Scarp degradation is modeled as a diffusive mass transport process in the across-scarp direction. The second derivative of the modeled degraded fault scarp was normalized to yield the best-fitting (in a least-squared sense) scarp height at each point, and the signal-to-noise ratio identified those areas containing scarp-like topography. We applied this method to three areas along the San Andreas Fault and found correspondence between the mapped geometry of the fault and that extracted by our analysis. This suggests that the spatial distribution of scarp ages may be revealed by such an analysis, allowing the recent temporal development of a fault zone to be imaged along its length.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL04301
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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