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Materials Physics of Faults in Rapid Shear and Consequences for Earthquake Dynamics


IPGP - Îlot Cuvier


Séminaire de sismologie, de géosciences marines et de géophysique d'exploration

Salle 310

James R. Rice

Harvard University

Field observations of maturely slipped faults show that despite a generally broad zone of damage by cracking and granulation, large shear deformation, and therefore heat generation, in individual earthquakes seems generally to take place with extreme localization to a zone of order 1 mm or less width within a finely granulated fault core. Relevant fault weakening processes during large crustal events are therefore likely to be thermally influenced, although a constraint to be met, from scarcity of pseudotachylite, is that melting within fault zones seems relatively rare, at least in the upper crust. Further, given the porosity of damage zones, it seems reasonable to assume in-situ water presence. The lecture reviews current understanding of the materials physics underlying rapid shear of such fault zones, addressing questions like: Why is there severe localization? What are the dynamic relations between shear stress sustained by the fault and its slip history? How do those relations, taken to provide the boundary conditions on a rupturing interface between elastic regions of the earth, control key features of the dynamics of earthquakes? The results, applied to modeling of spontaneous slip ruptures, show how faults can be statically strong yet dynamically weak, and operate under low overall driving stress, in a manner that generates negligible heat and meets major seismic constraints on slip, stress drop, and self-healing rupture mode. They also shed light on how fault segments that normally shear stably, so as to not nucleate earthquakes, can nevertheless take part in major events when a high-slip rupture impinges from a bordering segment. The studies reviewed have been done collaboratively with, or draw on the separate insights of, N. Brantut, M. Cocco, E. Dunham, D. Garagash, D. Goldsby, N. Lapusta, H. Noda, J. Platt, A. Rempel, J. Rudnicki, P. Segall, T. Shimamoto, J. Sulem, T. Tullis and I. Vardoulakis.