Earthquakes occur because faults weaken with increasing slip and slip rate. Thermal pressurization (TP) of trapped pore fluids is deemed to be a widespread coseismic fault weakening mechanism. Yet, due to technical challenges, experimental evidence of TP is limited. Here, by exploiting a novel experimental configuration, we simulate seismic slip pulses (slip rate 2.0 m/s) on dolerite-built faults under pore fluid pressures up to 25 MPa. We measure transient sharp weakening, down to almost zero friction and concurrent with a spike in pore fluid pressure, which interrupts the exponential-decay slip weakening. The interpretation of mechanical and microstructural data plus numerical modeling suggests that wear and local melting processes in experimental faults generate ultra-fine materials to seal the pressurized pore water, causing transient TP spikes. Our work suggests that, with wear-induced sealing, TP may also occur in relatively permeable faults and could be quite common in nature.

Coseismic fault sealing and fluid pressurization during earthquakes

Di Toro G.
2023

Abstract

Earthquakes occur because faults weaken with increasing slip and slip rate. Thermal pressurization (TP) of trapped pore fluids is deemed to be a widespread coseismic fault weakening mechanism. Yet, due to technical challenges, experimental evidence of TP is limited. Here, by exploiting a novel experimental configuration, we simulate seismic slip pulses (slip rate 2.0 m/s) on dolerite-built faults under pore fluid pressures up to 25 MPa. We measure transient sharp weakening, down to almost zero friction and concurrent with a spike in pore fluid pressure, which interrupts the exponential-decay slip weakening. The interpretation of mechanical and microstructural data plus numerical modeling suggests that wear and local melting processes in experimental faults generate ultra-fine materials to seal the pressurized pore water, causing transient TP spikes. Our work suggests that, with wear-induced sealing, TP may also occur in relatively permeable faults and could be quite common in nature.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3479858
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