Cumulative co-seismic fault damage and feedbacks on earthquake rupture

Seminar by Tom Mitchell (UCL)

The importance of the damage zone in the faulting and earthquake process is widely recognized, but our understanding of how damage zones are created, what their properties are, and how they feed back into the seismic cycle, is remarkably poorly known. Firstly, damaged rocks have reduced elastic moduli, cohesion and yield strength, which can cause attenuation and potentially non-linear wave propagation effects during ruptures. Secondly, damaged fault rocks are generally more permeable than intact rocks, and hence play a key role in the migration of fluids in and around fault zones over the seismic cycle. Finally, the dynamic generation of damage as the earthquake propagates can itself influence the dynamics of rupture propagation, by increasing the amount of energy dissipation, decreasing the rupture velocity, modifying the size of the earthquake, changing the efficiency of weakening mechanisms such as thermal pressurisation of pore fluids, and even generating seismic waves itself . All of these effects imply that a feedback exists between the damage imparted immediately after rupture propagation, at the early stages of fault slip, and the effects of that damage on subsequent ruptures dynamics.

In recent years, much debate has been sparked by the identification of so-called ‘pulverized rocks’ described on various crustal-scale faults, a type of intensely damaged fault rock which has undergone minimal shear strain, and the occurrence of which has been linked to damage induced by transient high strain-rate stress perturbations during earthquake rupture. Damage induced by such transient stresses, whether compressional or tensional, likely constitute heterogeneous modulations of the remote stresses that will impart significant changes on the strength, elastic and fluid flow properties of a fault zone immediately after rupture propagation, at the early stage of fault slip. In this contribution, we will demonstrate laboratory and field examples of two dynamic mechanisms that have been proposed for the generation of pulverized rocks; (i) compressive loading by high-frequency stress pulses due to the radiation of seismic waves and (ii) explosive dilation in tension in rocks containing pressurized pore fluids.
Published Jan. 15, 2018 2:59 PM - Last modified Jan. 15, 2018 2:59 PM