What is a Reverse Fault? - Definition, Locations & Example

What is a Reverse Fault? - Definition, Locations & Example
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  • 0:02 The Faults in Our Earth
  • 0:46 Dip-Slip Faults
  • 1:57 Reverse Faults and…
  • 2:32 Coal Mining Terms
  • 3:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Ellen Ellis
Do you enjoy the breathtaking view of impressive mountain ranges? If so, you can likely thank a reverse fault for creating them. This kind of fault has produced some of the Earth's most spectacular ranges.

The Faults in Our Earth

A fault is a rupture or fracture in the earth's crust, its outer layer. The Earth's crust moves along these faults, which are everywhere, both on land and on the crust under the oceans.

There are different types of faults, categorized by how the earth on either side of the fault moves. For example, if you have ever felt the terrifying shake of an earthquake, you were near a strike-slip fault, in which the earth on either side moves horizontally, or side to side.

A reverse fault is a type of dip-slip fault. These are faults that move vertically. The earth on either side of the fault moves up or down relative to the other. In a reverse fault, the earth on one side moves up and over the other side.

The Dip-Slip Faults

Before understanding how a reverse fault gets its name, we should first look at its opposite: a normal fault. In a normal fault, one side of the fault slides down. Think about how the earth should move based on gravity - it should go down, not up, right? So when one side of the fault does go up instead of down, it is called a reverse fault. It is working against gravity.

We also have names for the two sides of the fault. The fault does not go straight up and down. It is at an angle, which means that one side of the fault hangs over the other. We call that side the hanging wall. The other side is the foot wall. It looks a little bit like a foot, which helps to remember which is which. In a reverse fault, the hanging wall moves up and over the foot wall.

A special type of reverse fault is called a thrust fault. It moves in the same way as a reverse fault, in that the hanging wall moves up relative to the foot wall, but the angle of incline is less than 45 degrees. Subduction zones, where the edge of one of the earth's tectonic plates rises over the edge of another, are thrust faults. These cause folds in the earth.

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