Faulting Processes Unveiled by Magnetic Properties of Fault Rocks

Tao Yang*, Yu Min Chou, Eric C. Ferré, Mark J. Dekkers*, Jianye Chen, En Chao Yeh, Wataru Tanikawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


As iron-bearing minerals—ferrimagnetic minerals in particular—are sensitive to stress, temperature, and presence of fluids in fault zones, their magnetic properties provide valuable insights into physical and chemical processes affecting fault rocks. Here, we review the advances made in magnetic studies of fault rocks in the past three decades. We provide a synthesis of the mechanisms that account for the magnetic changes in fault rocks and insights gained from magnetic research. We also integrate nonmagnetic approaches in the evaluation of the magnetic properties of fault rocks. Magnetic analysis unveils microscopic processes operating in the fault zones such as frictional heating, energy dissipation, and fluid percolation that are otherwise difficult to constrain. This makes magnetic properties suited as a “strain indicator,” a “geothermometer,” and a “fluid tracer” in fault zones. However, a full understanding of faulting-induced magnetic changes has not been accomplished yet. Future research should focus on detailed magnetic property analysis of fault zones including magnetic microscanning and magnetic fabric analysis. To calibrate the observations on natural fault zones, laboratory experiments should be carried out that enable to extract the exact physicochemical conditions that led to a certain magnetic signature. Potential avenues could include (1) magnetic investigations on natural and synthetic fault rocks after friction experiments, (2) laboratory simulation of fault fluid percolation, (3) paleomagnetic analysis of postkinematic remanence components associated with faulting processes, and (4) synergy of interdisciplinary approaches in mineral-magnetic studies. This would help to place our understanding of the microphysics of faulting on a much stronger footing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019RG000690
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec


  • earthquake
  • fault fluid
  • fault rocks
  • frictional heating
  • magnetic fabric
  • rock magnetism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics


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