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The Kunlun Fault

The Kunlun fault is one of the gigantic strike-slip faults that bound the north side of Tibet. Left-lateral motion along the 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) length of the Kunlun has occurred uniformly for the last 40,000 years at a rate of 1.1 centimeter per year, creating a cumulative offset of more than 400 meters. In this image, two splays of the fault are clearly seen crossing from east to west. The northern fault juxtaposes sedimentary rocks of the mountains against alluvial fans. Its trace is also marked by lines of vegetation, which appear red in the image. The southern, younger fault cuts through the alluvium. A dark linear area in the center of the image is wet ground where groundwater has ponded against the fault. Measurements from the image of displacements of young streams that cross the fault show 15 to 75 meters (16 to 82 yards) of left-lateral offset. The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) acquired the visible light and near infrared scene on July 20, 2000.

Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team