Fault healing promotes high-frequency earthquakes in laboratory experiments and on natural faults

Article metrics

Abstract

Faults strengthen or heal with time in stationary contact1,2, and this healing may be an essential ingredient for the generation of earthquakes1,2,3. In the laboratory, healing is thought to be the result of thermally activated mechanisms that weld together micrometre-sized asperity contacts on the fault surface, but the relationship between laboratory measures of fault healing and the seismically observable properties of earthquakes is at present not well defined. Here we report on laboratory experiments and seismological observations that show how the spectral properties of earthquakes vary as a function of fault healing time. In the laboratory, we find that increased healing causes a disproportionately large amount of high-frequency seismic radiation to be produced during fault rupture. We observe a similar connection between earthquake spectra and recurrence time for repeating earthquake sequences on natural faults. Healing rates depend on pressure, temperature4 and mineralogy1, so the connection between seismicity and healing may help to explain recent observations of large megathrust earthquakes which indicate that energetic, high-frequency seismic radiation originates from locations that are distinct from the geodetically inferred locations of large-amplitude fault slip5,6,7.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Experimental data from a pair of healing tests.
Figure 2: Sequence of successive LabEQs.
Figure 3: LabEQ spectral changes with recurrence time.
Figure 4: Spectral changes of RESs near Parkfield.

References

  1. 1

    Dieterich, J. H. Time-dependent friction in rocks. J. Geophys. Res. 77, 3690–3697 (1972)

  2. 2

    Dieterich, J. H. & Kilgore, B. D. Direct observations of frictional contacts—new insights for state-dependent properties. Pure Appl. Geophys. 143, 283–302 (1994)

  3. 3

    Scholz, C. The Mechanics of Earthquakes and Faulting 81–100 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002)

  4. 4

    Berthoud, P. & Baumberger, T. G’Sell, C. & Hiver, J.-M. Physical analysis of the state- and rate-dependent friction law: static friction. Phys. Rev. B 59, 14313–14327 (1999)

  5. 5

    Kiser, E. & Ishii, M. The 2010 Mw 8.8 Chile earthquake: Triggering on multiple segments and frequency-dependent rupture behavior. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L07301 (2011)

  6. 6

    Lay, T. et al. Depth-varying rupture properties of subduction zone megathrust faults. J. Geophys. Res. 117, B04311 (2012)

  7. 7

    Meng, L., Inbal, A. & Ampuero, J.-P. A window into the complexity of the dynamic rupture of the 2011 Mw 9 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L00G07 (2011)

  8. 8

    Karner, S. L. & Marone, C. in Geocomplexity and the Physics of Earthquakes (eds Rundle, J. B., Turcotte, D. and Klein, W. ) 187–198 (Geophys. Monogr. Ser. 120, AGU, 2000)

  9. 9

    Chen, T. & Lapusta, N. Scaling of small repeating earthquakes explained by interaction of seismic and aseismic slip in a rate and state fault model. J. Geophys. Res. 114, B01311 (2009)

  10. 10

    Chen, K. H., Bürgmann, R., Nadeau, R. M., Chen, T. & Lapusta, N. Postseismic variations in seismic moment and recurrence interval of repeating earthquakes. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 299, 118–125 (2010)

  11. 11

    Vidale, J. E., Ellsworth, W. L., Cole, A. & Marone, C. Variations in rupture process with recurrence interval in a repeated small earthquake. Nature 368, 624–626 (1994)

  12. 12

    Peng, Z. & Vidale, J. E. Marone, C. & Rubin, A. Systematic variations in recurrence interval and moment of repeating aftershocks. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L15301 (2005)

  13. 13

    Dieterich, J. H. & Conrad, G. Effect of humidity on time and velocity-dependent friction in rocks. J. Geophys. Res. 89, 4196–4202 (1984)

  14. 14

    Cox, S. F. & Paterson, M. S. Experimental dissolution precipitation creep in quartz aggregates at high temperatures. Geophys. Res. Lett. 18, 1401–1404 (1991)

  15. 15

    Li, Q., Tullis, T. E., Goldsby, D. & Carpick, R. W. Frictional ageing from interfacial bonding and the origins of rate and state friction. Nature 480, 233–236 (2011)

  16. 16

    Rabinowitz, E. Friction and Wear of Materials (Wiley, 1965)

  17. 17

    Heslot, F., Baumberger, T., Perrin, B., Caroli, B. & Caroli, C. Creep, stick–slip, and dry friction dynamics: experiments and a heuristic model. Phys. Rev. E 49, 4973–4988 (1994)

  18. 18

    Rice, J. R. & Cocco, M. in Tectonic Faults: Agents of Change on a Dynamic Earth (eds Handy, M. R., Hirth, G. & Hovius, N. ) 99–137 (MIT Press, 2007)

  19. 19

    Wu, F. T., Thomson, K. C. & Kuenzler, H. Stick-slip propagation velocity and seismic source mechanism. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 62, 1621–1628 (1972)

  20. 20

    McLaskey, G. C. & Glaser, S. D. Micromechanics of asperity rupture during laboratory stick slip experiments. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L12302 (2011)

  21. 21

    Beeler, N. M., Hickman, S. H. & Wong, T.-f. Earthquake stress drop and laboratory-inferred interseismic strength recovery. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 30,701–30,713 (2001)

  22. 22

    Nadeau, R. M. & McEvilly, T. V. Fault slip rates at depth from recurrence intervals of repeating microearthquakes. Science 285, 718–721 (1999)

  23. 23

    Nadeau, R. M., Michalini, A., Uhrhammer, R. A., Dolenc, D. & McEvilly, T. V. Detailed kinematics, structure and recurrence of micro-seismicity in the SAFOD target region. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L12S08 (2004)

  24. 24

    Rubinstein, J. L. & Beroza, G. C. Depth constraints on nonlinear strong ground motion. Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L14313 (2005)

  25. 25

    Johnson, L. An earthquake model with interacting asperities. Geophys. J. Int. 182, 1339–1373 (2010)

  26. 26

    Dreger, D. Nadeau, R. M. & Chung, A. Repeating earthquake finite source models: strong asperities revealed on the San Andreas fault. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L23302 (2007)

  27. 27

    Page, M., Dunham, E. & Carlson, J. M. Distinguishing barriers and asperities in near-source ground motion. J. Geophys. Res. 110, B11302 (2005)

  28. 28

    Carpenter, B. M., Marone, C. & Saffer, D. M. Weakness of the San Andreas fault revealed by samples from the active fault zone. Nature Geosci. 4, 251–254 (2011)

  29. 29

    Saffer, D. M. & Marone, C. Comparison of smectite- and illite rich gouge frictional properties: application to the updip limit of the seismogenic zone along subduction megathrusts. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 215, 219–235 (2003)

  30. 30

    McLaskey, G. C. & Glaser, S. D. Hertzian impact: experimental study of the force pulse and resulting stress waves. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 128, 1087–1096 (2010)

Download references

Acknowledgements

This paper was improved by suggestions from R. Bürgmann and constructive reviews by T. Tullis, C. Marone, W. Ellsworth and N. Beeler. High-Resolution Seismic Network data was provided by the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and NCEDC. Research was supported by the US NSF GRF and NSF grants CMMI-1131582, EAR-0738342 and EAR-0910322. This is BSL contribution #11-12.

Author information

G.C.M. and S.D.G. developed the laboratory experiments. R.M.N. developed and maintained repeating-earthquake catalogues. A.M.T. and G.C.M. performed analysis of the RESs at Parkfield. G.C.M. performed analysis of LabEQs and wrote the manuscript, with contributions from all authors.

Correspondence to Gregory C. McLaskey.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Figures

This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-6. (PDF 1519 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

This table contains the static strength and healing parameters. (XLS 29 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

This table contains the RES information. (XLS 15 kb)

Supplementary Table 3

This table contains the RES event information. (XLS 17 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

McLaskey, G., Thomas, A., Glaser, S. et al. Fault healing promotes high-frequency earthquakes in laboratory experiments and on natural faults. Nature 491, 101–104 (2012) doi:10.1038/nature11512

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.