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Strike-Slip Fault Overview & Types

Brianna Cowling, Mary Ellen Ellis
  • Author
    Brianna Cowling

    Brianna graduated from Henderson State University in 2016 with a B.S. in Psychology and Biology. She has been a secondary science teacher for 5 years and has written curriculum and science lessons for other companies. She is a Certified Google Level 1 Educator and is part of the Edulastic Innovator Team and her campus Leadership Team.

  • Instructor
    Mary Ellen Ellis

    Mary Ellen is a science and education writer with a background in chemistry. She holds an M.S. in analytical chemistry and has worked as a high school science teacher.

Learn the strike-slip fault definition and compare the left-lateral and right-lateral strike-slip fault. Study dip-slip, transform, and oblique-slip faults. Updated: 02/24/2022

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What is a Strike-Slip Fault?

A fault is a break between two large pieces of rock that make up Earth's crust. Faults allow these two blocks of rock to move toward, away from, or past one another. The movement that occurs at a fault determines what type of fault it is classified as. The three types of faults are normal faults, reverse faults, and strike-slip faults. What is a strike slip fault? The strike-slip fault definition states that a strike- slip fault is one in which the two blocks of rock slide past one another. A strike slip fault is caused by a build-up of stress that is released when two rocks slide past one another. This stress is known as shearing stress which is a type of stress that is parallel to a particular surface, such as the two blocks of rock in a strike slip fault.


A strike-slip fault occurs when two blocks of rock slide past one another.

image of a strike-slip fault


Right-Lateral vs. Left-Lateral Strike-Slip Fault

Strike-slip faults can be classified in two ways: left lateral strike-slip faults or right lateral strike-slip faults. This classification depends on the perspective of the viewer and the motion of the two blocks of rock. For example, if an observer is standing on one side of a strike slip fault and the block of rock opposite the observer is moving to the left, the fault is considered a left lateral strike-slip fault. This motion is also known as sinistral. If the block of rock opposite the observer moves to the right, it is considered a right lateral strike-slip fault. This motion is known as dextral.

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Strike-Slip Faults & Earthquakes

As mentioned above, a strike-slip fault includes two blocks of rock that slide in opposite directions past one another. Due to the jagged nature of the large pieces of rock, the rough edges may prevent the blocks from moving, causing extreme amounts of tension and energy build-up. Eventually, the rocks slip and move past one another, releasing this large build-up of energy, a phenomenon that causes earthquakes to occur. The release of energy and tension, comes out in the form of seismic waves that shake the ground near the fault. Earthquakes can be mild if the amount of energy released is small, but can also be extremely destructive if the amount of energy released is large.

Types of Strike-Slip Faults

There are three different types of strike slip faults that can occur. These include:

  • Dip Slip Faults
  • Oblique Slip Faults
  • Transform Faults

Dip-Slip Faults

A dip-slip fault is a fault in which the two blocks of rock have moved vertically. Dip-slip faults can be either normal faults or reverse faults, depending on the movement of the rock mass above the fault. If the rock mass above the fault moves down, it is considered a normal dip-slip fault, but if the rock mass moves up, it is considered a reverse dip-slip fault. The San Andreas Fault in California is an example of a dip-slip fault.


A dip-slip fault is a type of strike-slip fault with vertical rock movement.

image of a dip-slip fault


Oblique-Slip Fault

An oblique-slip fault is a fault similar to both a strike-slip and a dip-slip fault. In an oblique-slip fault, the two blocks of rock move both vertically and horizontally. This is the result of experiencing both shearing and tension stresses. The fault that runs through the Sierra Nevada valley is an oblique-slip fault.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What causes a strike-slip fault to form?

A strike-slip fault forms as a result of shearing stress. This stress forces two blocks of rock to move in opposite directions past one another.

What is an example of a strike-slip fault?

An example of a strike-slip fault is the San Andreas Fault in California. The Anatolian Fault in Turkey and the Alpine Fault in New Zealand are also strike-slip faults.

What is a strike-slip fault?

A strike slip fault is a break in earth's crust where two blocks of rock slide past one another. This is the result of a type of stress known as shearing stress.

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