Seismic and aseismic slip pulses driven by thermal pressurization of pore fluid
Garagash, D. I.
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There are several lines of evidence that suggest that thermal pressurization (TP) of pore fluid within a low-permeability fault core may play the key role in the development of earthquake slip. To elucidate effects of TP on spontaneous fault slip, we consider solutions for a steadily propagating slip pulse on a fault with a constant sliding friction, the level of which may reflect other thermally-activated processes at the rupture front (such as the flash heating on asperities). Upon arrival of the pulse front, essentially undrained-adiabatic TP takes place during the initial slip acceleration from the locked state with a corresponding reduction of the fault strength. With passage of time, the diminishing rate of heating (due to the reduced fault strength) and increasing rate of hydrothermal diffusion from the shear zone offset TP and result in partial recovery of the strength, slip deceleration and eventual locking and healing of the slip. We show that the rupture speed nu(r) decreases with thickness h of the principal shear zone. For lab-constrained values of fault-gouge parameters, the TP-pulse solution predicts seismic (nu(r) similar to km/s) slip on a millimeter-to-cm thin principal shear zone; and aseismic slip with nu(r) similar to 10 km/day and slip rates 1-2 orders above the plate rate on a relatively thick (h similar to 1 m) shear zone. These and other predictions of the TP-pulse model are consistent with the independent sets of observational constraints for large crustal and subduction interplate earthquakes, and slow slip transients (North Cascadia), respectively. Locking of the slip soon after the diffusive transport of the heat and pore fluid becomes efficient significantly limits the maximum co-seismic temperature rise to values well below previous theoretical estimates. As a result, the onset of macroscopic melting and some of thermal decomposition reactions, recently suggested to explain strong co-seismic fault weakening, are precluded over much of the seismogenic zone.
Garagash, D. I.. 2012. "Seismic and aseismic slip pulses driven by thermal pressurization of pore fluid." Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth 117: 04314-B04314. DOI:10.1029/2011JB008889