Letter | Published:

Tension fractures and extensional tectonics

Nature volume 301, pages 4951 (06 January 1983) | Download Citation



A characteristic pattern of normal faults that we have studied in several regions illustrates successive geometries relating to increasing amounts of extension from 10–50% (Gulf of Suez, Egypt) to 50–100% (Western Gulf of California, Mexico) up to 200% (Southern Basin and Range, USA). Tension fractures formed at an early stage of extension have an essential role. The resulting structure is described as a multiple tilted "packs of cards" model in which rotational deformation within the major blocks is accommodated by normal faulting on previously formed tension fractures, thus defining smaller blocks of second and third generation.

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Author information


  1. Département de Géotectonique, Université Pierre-et-Marie Curie, 4, place Jussieu 75230 Paris, Cédex 05, France

    • Jacques Angelier
  2. Instituto de Geologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico

    • Bernard Colletta


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