Despite decades of observational, laboratory and theoretical studies, the processes leading to large earthquake generation remain enigmatic. However, recent observations provide new promising perspectives that advance knowledge. Here, we review data on the initiation processes of large earthquakes and show that they are multiscale and diverse, involving localization of deformation, fault heterogeneities and variable local loading rate effects. Analyses of seismic and geodetic data reveal evidence for regional weakening by earthquake-induced rock damage and progressive localization of deformation around the eventual rupture zones a few years before some large earthquakes. The final phase of deformation localization includes, depending on conditions, a mixture of slow slip transients and foreshocks at multiple spatial and temporal scales. The evolution of slip on large, localized faults shows a step-like increase that might reflect stress loading by previous failures, which can produce larger dynamic slip, in contrast to the smooth acceleration expected for a growing aseismic nucleation phase. We propose an integrated model to explain the diversity of large earthquake generation from progressive volumetric deformation to localized slip, which motivates future near-fault seismic and geodetic studies with dense sensor networks and improved analysis techniques that can resolve multiscale processes.
Progressive localization of shear deformation was observed before several Mw > 7 shallow crustal earthquakes. Some mainshocks were also preceded by immediate foreshock sequences or slow slip.
A step-like increase in fault slip driven by a combination of migrating slow slip transients and foreshocks occurred before some megathrust earthquakes in subduction zones. The intermittent increase in fault slip loads nearby locked regions, increasing the likelihood of subsequent large earthquakes.
The initiation processes of large, natural earthquakes are diverse and include localization of deformation and complexities of subsequent slip, owing to strength heterogeneity, fault roughness and variable local loading-rate effects.
Integrated, high-resolution seismic and geodetic observations, including additional near-fault sensors and advanced analysis techniques, are needed to improve the knowledge on the combination of aseismic slip and seismic sequences that lead to the occurrence of large, natural earthquakes.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Fukao, Y. & Furumoto, M. Hierarchy in earthquake size distribution. Phys. Earth Planet. Inter. 37, 149–168 (1985).
Reches, Z. & Lockner, D. A. Nucleation and growth of faults in brittle rocks. J. Geophys. Res. 99, 18159–18173 (1994).
Ben-Zion, Y. Collective behavior of earthquakes and faults. Rev. Geophys. 46, RG4006 (2008).
Gomberg, J. Unsettled earthquake nucleation. Nat. Geosci. 11, 463–464 (2018).
Abercrombie, R. E. Similar starts for small and large earthquakes. Nature 573, 42–43 (2019).
Ben-Zion, Y. & Zaliapin, I. Localization and coalescence of seismicity before large earthquakes. Geophys. J. Int. 223, 561–583 (2020).
Ben-Zion, Y. Stress, slip, and earthquakes in models of complex single-fault systems incorporating brittle and creep deformations. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 101, 5677–5706 (1996).
Sammis, C. G. & Smith, S. W. Seismic cycles and the evolution of stress correlation in cellular automaton models of finite fault networks. Pure Appl. Geophys. 155, 307–334 (1999).
Ben-Zion, Y., Eneva, M. & Liu, Y. Large earthquake cycles and intermittent criticality on heterogeneous faults due to evolving stress and seismicity. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 108, 2307 (2003).
Ellsworth, W. L. & Bulut, F. Nucleation of the 1999 Izmit earthquake by a triggered cascade of foreshocks. Nat. Geosci. 11, 531–535 (2018).
Ide, S. Frequent observations of identical onsets of large and small earthquakes. Nature 573, 112–116 (2019).
Yoon, C. E., Yoshimitsu, N., Ellsworth, W. L. & Beroza, G. C. Foreshocks and mainshock nucleation of the 1999 Mw 7.1 Hector Mine, California, earthquake. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 124, 1569–1582 (2019).
Dieterich, J. H. Earthquake nucleation on faults with rate-and state-dependent strength. Tectonophysics 211, 115–134 (1992).
Ohnaka, M. Nonuniformity of the constitutive law parameters for shear rupture and quasistatic nucleation to dynamic rupture: A physical model of earthquake generation processes. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 93, 3795–3802 (1996).
Tape, C. et al. Earthquake nucleation and fault slip complexity in the lower crust of central Alaska. Nat. Geosci. 11, 536–541 (2018).
Lockner, D. A., Byerlee, J. D., Kuksenkot, V., Ponomarev, A. & Sidorin, A. Quasi-static fault growth and shear fracture energy in granite. Nature 350, 39–42 (1991).
Lyakhovsky, V., Ben-Zion, Y. & Agnon, A. Distributed damage, faulting, and friction. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 102, 27635–27649 (1997).
Renard, F. et al. Volumetric and shear processes in crystalline rock approaching faulting. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 16234–16239 (2019).
Zaliapin, I. & Ben-Zion, Y. Earthquake clusters in southern California I: Identification and stability. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 118, 2847–2864 (2013).
Zaliapin, I. & Ben-Zion, Y. A global classification and characterization of earthquake clusters. Geophys. J. Int. 207, 608–634 (2016).
Dodge, D. A., Beroza, G. C. & Ellsworth, W. L. Detailed observations of California foreshock sequences: Implications for the earthquake initiation process. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 101, 22371–22392 (1996).
Bouchon, M., Durand, V., Marsan, D., Karabulut, H. & Schmittbuhl, J. The long precursory phase of most large interplate earthquakes. Nat. Geosci. 6, 299–302 (2013).
Wu, C., Meng, X., Peng, Z. & Ben-Zion, Y. Lack of spatiotemporal localization of foreshocks before the 1999 Mw 7.1 Düzce, Turkey, earthquake. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 104, 560–566 (2014).
Tamaribuchi, K., Yagi, Y., Enescu, B. & Hirano, S. Characteristics of foreshock activity inferred from the JMA earthquake catalog. Earth Planets Space 70, 90 (2018).
Abercrombie, R. E. & Mori, J. Occurrence patterns of foreshocks to large earthquakes in the western United States. Nature 381, 303–307 (1996).
Mignan, A. The debate on the prognostic value of earthquake foreshocks: A meta-analysis. Sci. Rep. 4, 4099 (2014).
Wesnousky, S. G. Seismological and structural evolution of strike-slip faults. Nature 335, 22–25 (1988).
Ben-Zion, Y. & Sammis, C. G. Characterization of fault zones. Pure Appl. Geophys. 160, 677–715 (2003).
Peng, S. & Johnson, A. M. Crack growth and faulting in cylindrical specimens of Chelmsford granite. Int. J. Rock Mech. Min. Sci. Geomech. Abstr. 9, 37–86 (1972).
Kato, A. & Ueda, T. Source fault model of the 2018 Mw 5.6 northern Osaka earthquake, Japan, inferred from the aftershock sequence. Earth Planets Space 71, 11 (2019).
Scholz, C. H. The Mechanics of Earthquakes and Faulting (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2019).
Schrank, C. E., Boutelier, D. A. & Cruden, A. R. The analogue shear zone: From rheology to associated geometry. J. Struct. Geol. 30, 177–193 (2008).
Ritter, M. C., Santimano, T., Rosenau, M., Leever, K. & Oncken, O. Sandbox rheometry: Co-evolution of stress and strain in Riedel– and Critical Wedge–experiments. Tectonophysics 722, 400–409 (2018).
Stanchits, S., Vinciguerra, S. & Dresen, G. Ultrasonic velocities, acoustic emission characteristics and crack damage of basalt and granite. Pure Appl. Geophys. 163, 974–993 (2006).
Aben, F. M., Brantut, N., Mitchell, T. M. & David, E. C. Rupture energetics in crustal rock from laboratory-scale seismic tomography. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 7337–7344 (2019).
Lyakhovsky, V., Ben-Zion, Y. & Agnon, A. Earthquake cycle, fault zones, and seismicity patterns in a rheologically layered lithosphere. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 106, 4103–4120 (2001).
Lyakhovsky, V. & Ben-Zion, Y. Evolving geometrical and material properties of fault zones in a damage rheology model. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 10, Q11011 (2009).
Zeng, Y., Petersen, M. D. & Shen, Z. K. Earthquake potential in California-Nevada implied by correlation of strain rate and seismicity. Geophys. Res. Lett. 45, 1778–1785 (2018).
Nishimura, T. Strain concentration zones in the Japanese Islands clarified from GNSS data and its relation with active faults and inland earthquakes. Active Fault Res. 2017, 33–39 (2017).
Ben-Zion, Y. & Zaliapin, I. Spatial variations of rock damage production by earthquakes in southern California. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 512, 184–193 (2019).
Hauksson, E., Yang, W. & Shearer, P. M. Waveform relocated earthquake catalog for Southern California (1981 to June 2011). Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 102, 2239–2244 (2012).
Reches, Z. Mechanisms of slip nucleation during earthquakes. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 170, 475–486 (1999).
Nakatani, M. & Scholz, C. H. Frictional healing of quartz gouge under hydrothermal conditions: 1. Experimental evidence for solution transfer healing mechanism. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 109, B07201 (2004).
Aben, F. M., Doan, M. L., Gratier, J. P. & Renard, F. Experimental postseismic recovery of fractured rocks assisted by calcite sealing. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 7228–7238 (2017).
Craig, T. J., Chanard, K. & Calais, E. Hydrologically-driven crustal stresses and seismicity in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Nat. Commun. 8, 2143 (2017).
Chen, X. & Shearer, P. M. California foreshock sequences suggest aseismic triggering process. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 2602–2607 (2013).
Shelly, D. R. A high-resolution seismic catalog for the initial 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake sequence: Foreshocks, aftershocks, and faulting complexity. Seismol. Res. Lett. 91, 1971–1978 (2020).
Imanishi, K. & Uchide, T. Non-self-similar source property for microforeshocks of the 2014 Mw 6.2 Northern Nagano, central Japan, earthquake. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 5401–5410 (2017).
Hayashida, Y., Matsumoto, S., Iio, Y., Sakai, S. & Kato, A. Non-double-couple microearthquakes in the focal area of the 2000 Western Tottori earthquake (M 7.3) via hyperdense seismic observations. Geophys. Res. Lett. 47, e2019GL084841 (2020).
Kato, A., Fukuda, J., Nakagawa, S. & Obara, K. Foreshock migration preceding the 2016 Mw7.0 Kumamoto earthquake, Japan. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 8945–8953 (2016).
Ito, Y., Obara, K., Shiomi, K., Sekine, S. & Hirose, H. Slow earthquakes coincident with episodic tremors and slow slip events. Science 315, 503–506 (2007).
Matsuzawa, T., Asano, Y. & Obara, K. Very low frequency earthquakes off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, Japan. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 4318–4325 (2015).
Kaneko, Y., Nielsen, S. B. & Carpenter, B. M. The onset of laboratory earthquakes explained by nucleating rupture on a rate-and-state fault. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 121, 6071–6091 (2016).
Peng, Z. & Gomberg, J. An integrated perspective of the continuum between earthquakes and slow-slip phenomena. Nat. Geosci. 3, 599–607 (2010).
Obara, K. & Kato, A. Connecting slow earthquakes to huge earthquakes. Science 353, 253–257 (2016).
Bürgmann, R. The geophysics, geology and mechanics of slow fault slip. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 495, 112–134 (2018).
Veedu, D. M. & Barbot, S. The Parkfield tremors reveal slow and fast ruptures on the same asperity. Nature 532, 361–365 (2016).
Kato, A. et al. Propagation of slow slip leading up to the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Science 335, 705–708 (2012).
Miyazaki, S., McGuire, J. J. & Segall, P. Seismic and aseismic fault slip before and during the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake. Earth Planets Space 63, 637–642 (2011).
Ito, Y. et al. Episodic slow slip events in the Japan subduction zone before the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Tectonophysics 600, 14–26 (2013).
Bedford, J. R. et al. Months-long thousand-kilometre-scale wobbling before great subduction earthquakes. Nature 580, 628–635 (2020).
Ozawa, S. et al. Preceding, coseismic, and postseismic slips of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Japan. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 117, B07404 (2012).
Panet, I., Bonvalot, S., Narteau, C., Remy, D. & Lemoine, J. M. Migrating pattern of deformation prior to the Tohoku-Oki earthquake revealed by GRACE data. Nat. Geosci. 11, 367–373 (2018).
Ando, R. & Imanishi, K. Possibility of Mw 9.0 mainshock triggered by diffusional propagation of after-slip from Mw 7.3 foreshock. Earth Planets Space 63, 767–771 (2011).
Obara, K. Phenomenology of deep slow earthquake family in southwest Japan: Spatiotemporal characteristics and segmentation. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 115, B00A25 (2010).
Igarashi, T. Spatial changes of inter-plate coupling inferred from sequences of small repeating earthquakes in Japan. Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L20304 (2010).
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. Solid Earth 114, B01311 (2009).
Uchida, N. & Bürgmann, R. Repeating earthquakes. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 47, 305–332 (2019).
Ohta, Y. et al. Geodetic constraints on afterslip characteristics following the March 9, 2011, Sanriku-oki earthquake, Japan. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L16304 (2012).
Hino, R. et al. Was the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake preceded by aseismic preslip? Examination of seafloor vertical deformation data near the epicenter. Mar. Geophys. Res. 35, 181–190 (2014).
Katakami, S. et al. Spatiotemporal variation of tectonic tremor activity before the Tohoku-Oki earthquake. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 123, 9676–9688 (2018).
Wang, L. & Burgmann, R. Statistical significance of precursory gravity changes before the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 7323–7332 (2019).
Bouchon, M. et al. Potential slab deformation and plunge prior to the Tohoku, Iquique and Maule earthquakes. Nat. Geosci. 9, 380–383 (2016).
Mavrommatis, A. P., Segall, P., Uchida, N. & Johnson, K. M. Long-term acceleration of aseismic slip preceding the Mw 9 Tohoku-oki earthquake: Constraints from repeating earthquakes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 9717–9725 (2015).
Yokota, Y. & Koketsu, K. A very long-term transient event preceding the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Nat. Commun. 6, 5934 (2015).
Uchida, N. & Matsuzawa, T. Pre- and postseismic slow slip surrounding the 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake rupture. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 374, 81–91 (2013).
Baba, S., Takeo, A., Obara, K., Matsuzawa, T. & Maeda, T. Comprehensive detection of very low frequency earthquakes off the Hokkaido and Tohoku Pacific coasts, northeastern Japan. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 125, e2019JB017988 (2020).
Sato, T., Hiratsuka, S. & Mori, J. Precursory seismic activity surrounding the high-slip patches of the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 103, 3104–3114 (2013).
Kato, A. & Nakagawa, S. Multiple slow-slip events during a foreshock sequence of the 2014 Iquique, Chile Mw 8.1 earthquake. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 5420–5427 (2014).
Ruiz, S. et al. Intense foreshocks and a slow slip event preceded the 2014 Iquique Mw8.1 earthquake. Science 1165, 1165–1169 (2014).
Schurr, B. et al. Gradual unlocking of plate boundary controlled initiation of the 2014 Iquique earthquake. Nature 512, 299–302 (2014).
Meng, L., Huang, H., Bürgmann, R., Ampuero, J. P. & Strader, A. Dual megathrust slip behaviors of the 2014 Iquique earthquake sequence. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 411, 177–187 (2015).
Kato, A., Fukuda, J., Kumazawa, T. & Nakagawa, S. Accelerated nucleation of the 2014 Iquique, Chile Mw 8.2 earthquake. Sci. Rep. 6, 24792 (2016).
Bedford, J., Moreno, M., Schurr, B., Bartsch, M. & Oncken, O. Investigating the final seismic swarm before the Iquique-Pisagua 2014 Mw 8.1 by comparison of continuous GPS and seismic foreshock data. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 3820–3828 (2015).
Herman, M. W., Furlong, K. P., Hayes, G. P. & Benz, H. M. Foreshock triggering of the 1 April 2014 Mw 8.2 Iquique, Chile, earthquake. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 447, 119–129 (2016).
Jara, J., Socquet, A., Marsan, D. & Bouchon, M. Long-term interactions between intermediate depth and shallow seismicity in North Chile subduction zone. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 9283–9292 (2017).
Socquet, A. et al. An 8 month slow slip event triggers progressive nucleation of the 2014 Chile megathrust. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 4046–4053 (2017).
Ruiz, S. et al. Nucleation phase and dynamic inversion of the Mw 6.9 Valparaíso 2017 earthquake in Central Chile. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 10,290–10,297 (2017).
Nishikawa, T. & Ide, S. Recurring slow slip events and earthquake nucleation in the source region of the M 7 Ibaraki-Oki earthquakes revealed by earthquake swarm and foreshock activity. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 123, 7950–7968 (2018).
Reches, Z., Zu, X. & Carpenter, B. M. Energy-flux control of the steady-state, creep, and dynamic slip modes of faults. Sci. Rep. 9, 10627 (2019).
Frank, W. B., Rousset, B., Lasserre, C. & Campillo, M. Revealing the cluster of slow transients behind a large slow slip event. Sci. Adv. 4, eaat0661 (2018).
Bartlow, N. M. A long-term view of episodic tremor and slip in Cascadia. Geophys. Res. Lett. 47, e2019GL085303 (2020).
Wallace, L. M. Slow slip events in New Zealand. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 48, 175–203 (2020).
Yokota, Y. & Ishikawa, T. Shallow slow slip events along the Nankai Trough detected by GNSS-A. Sci. Adv. 6, eaay5786 (2020).
Kano, M. & Kato, A. Detailed spatial slip distribution for short-term slow slip events along the Nankai subduction zone, southwest Japan. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 125, e2020JB019613 (2020).
Mazzotti, S. & Adams, J. Variability of near-term probability for the next great earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 94, 1954–1959 (2004).
Kano, M., Kato, A. & Obara, K. Episodic tremor and slip silently invades strongly locked megathrust in the Nankai Trough. Sci. Rep. 9, 9270 (2019).
Dixon, T. H. et al. Earthquake and tsunami forecasts: Relation of slow slip events to subsequent earthquake rupture. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 17039–17044 (2014).
Graham, S. E. et al. GPS constraints on the 2011–2012 Oaxaca slow slip event that preceded the 2012 March 20 Ometepec earthquake, southern Mexico. Geophys. J. Int. 197, 1593–1607 (2014).
Radiguet, M. et al. Triggering of the 2014 Mw7.3 Papanoa earthquake by a slow slip event in Guerrero, Mexico. Nat. Geosci. 9, 829–833 (2016).
Hirose, H., Kimura, H., Enescu, B. & Aoi, S. Recurrent slow slip event likely hastened by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 15157–15161 (2012).
Vallée, M. et al. Intense interface seismicity triggered by a shallow slow slip event in the Central Ecuador subduction zone. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 118, 2965–2981 (2013).
Bartlow, N. M., Wallace, L. M., Beavan, R. J., Bannister, S. & Segall, P. Time-dependent modeling of slow slip events and associated seismicity and tremor at the Hikurangi subduction zone, New Zealand. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 119, 734–753 (2014).
Hirose, H., Matsuzawa, T., Kimura, T. & Kimura, H. The Boso slow slip events in 2007 and 2011 as a driving process for the accompanying earthquake swarm. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 2778–2785 (2014).
Fukuda, J. Variability of the space-time evolution of slow slip events off the Boso Peninsula, Central Japan, from 1996 to 2014. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 123, 732–760 (2018).
Fukuda, J., Kato, A., Obara, K., Miura, S. & Kato, T. Imaging of the early acceleration phase of the 2013–2014 Boso slow slip event. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 7493–7500 (2014).
Kato, A., Igarashi, T. & Obara, K. Detection of a hidden Boso slow slip event immediately after the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake, Japan. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 5868–5874 (2014).
Fukuda, J., Kato, A., Kato, N. & Aoki, Y. Are the frictional properties of creeping faults persistent? Evidence from rapid afterslip following the 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 3613–3617 (2013).
Hatakeyama, N., Uchida, N., Matsuzawa, T. & Nakamura, W. Emergence and disappearance of interplate repeating earthquakes following the 2011 M9.0 Tohoku-oki earthquake: Slip behavior transition between seismic and aseismic depending on the loading rate. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 122, 5160–5180 (2017).
Scholz, C. H. Earthquakes and friction laws. Nature 391, 37–42 (1998).
Lay, T. et al. Depth-varying rupture properties of subduction zone megathrust faults. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 117, B04311 (2012).
Guérin-Marthe, S., Nielsen, S., Bird, R., Giani, S. & Di Toro, G. Earthquake nucleation size: Evidence of loading rate dependence in laboratory faults. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 124, 689–708 (2019).
Rolandone, F., Bürgmann, R. & Nadeau, R. M. The evolution of the seismic-aseismic transition during the earthquake cycle: Constraints from the time-dependent depth distribution of aftershocks. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L23610 (2004).
Ben-Zion, Y. & Lyakhovsky, V. Analysis of aftershocks in a lithospheric model with seismogenic zone governed by damage rheology. Geophys. J. Int. 165, 197–210 (2006).
Cheng, Y. & Ben-Zion, Y. Transient brittle-ductile transition depth induced by moderate-large earthquakes in southern and Baja California. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 11109–11117 (2019).
Jamtveit, B., Ben-Zion, Y., Renard, F. & Austrheim, H. Earthquake-induced transformation of the lower crust. Nature 556, 487–491 (2018).
Kato, N., Yamamoto, K., Yamamoto, H. & Hirasawa, T. Strain-rate effect on frictional strength and the slip nucleation process. Tectonophysics 211, 269–282 (1992).
Mclaskey, G. C. & Yamashita, F. Slow and fast ruptures on a laboratory fault controlled by loading characteristics. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 122, 3719–3738 (2017).
Xu, S. et al. Strain rate effect on fault slip and rupture evolution: Insight from meter-scale rock friction experiments. Tectonophysics 733, 209–231 (2018).
McLaskey, G. C. Earthquake initiation from laboratory observations and implications for foreshocks. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 124, 12882–12904 (2019).
Okubo, P. G. & Dieterich, J. H. Effects of physical fault properties on frictional instabilities produced on simulated faults. J. Geophys. Res. 89, 5817–5827 (1984).
Ohnaka, M. & Shen, L. Scaling of the shear rupture process from nucleation to dynamic propagation: Implications of geometric irregularity of the rupturing surfaces. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 104, 817–844 (1999).
Marone, C. & Kilgore, B. Scaling of the critical slip distance for seismic faulting with shear strain in fault zones. Nature 362, 618–621 (1993).
Harbord, C. W. A., Nielsen, S. B., De Paola, N. & Holdsworth, R. E. Earthquake nucleation on rough faults. Geology 45, 931–934 (2017).
McLaskey, G. C. & Kilgore, B. D. Foreshocks during the nucleation of stick-slip instability. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 118, 2982–2997 (2013).
Shibazaki, B. & Matsu’ura, M. Foreshocks and pre-events associated with the nucleation of large earthquakes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 1305–1308 (1995).
Ben-Zion, Y. & Rice, J. R. Dynamic simulations of slip on a smooth fault in an elastic solid. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 102, 17771–17784 (1997).
Uenishi, K. & Rice, J. R. Universal nucleation length for slip-weakening rupture instability under nonuniform fault loading. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 108, 2042 (2003).
Acosta, M., Passelègue, F. X., Schubnel, A., Madariaga, R. & Violay, M. Can precursory moment release scale with earthquake magnitude? A view from the laboratory. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 12927–12937 (2019).
Mclaskey, G. C. & Lockner, D. Preslip and cascade processes initiating laboratory stick slip. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 119, 6323–6336 (2014).
Passelègue, F. X. et al. in Fault Zone Dynamic Processes: Evolution of Fault Properties During Seismic Rupture Ch. 12 (eds Thomas, M. Y., Mitchell, T. M. & Bhat, H. S.) (Wiley, 2017).
Chu, R. et al. Initiation of the great Mw 9.0 Tohoku–Oki earthquake. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 308, 277–283 (2011).
Ohnaka, M. A physical scaling relation between the size of an earthquake and its nucleation zone size. Pure Appl. Geophys. 157, 2259–2282 (2000).
Ide, S. & Aochi, H. Earthquakes as multiscale dynamic ruptures with heterogeneous fracture surface energy. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 110, B11303 (2005).
Hori, T. & Miyazaki, S. A possible mechanism of M 9 earthquake generation cycles in the area of repeating M 7~8 earthquakes surrounded by aseismic sliding. Earth Planets Space 63, 773–777 (2011).
Noda, H., Nakatani, M. & Hori, T. Large nucleation before large earthquakes is sometimes skipped due to cascade-up—Implications from a rate and state simulation of faults with hierarchical asperities. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 118, 2924–2952 (2013).
Okubo, K. et al. Dynamics, radiation, and overall energy budget of earthquake rupture with coseismic off-fault damage. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 124, 11771–11801 (2019).
Kurzon, I., Lyakhovsky, V. & Ben-Zion, Y. Dynamic rupture and seismic radiation in a damage–breakage rheology model. Pure Appl. Geophys. 176, 1003–1020 (2019).
Dieterich, J. H. & Kilgore, B. D. Imaging surface contacts: Power law contact distributions and contact stresses in quartz, calcite, glass and acrylic plastic. Tectonophysics 256, 219–239 (1996).
Muhuri, S. K., Dewers, T. A., Scott, T. E. Jr & Reches, Z. Interseismic fault strengthening and earthquake-slip instability: Friction or cohesion? Geology 31, 881–884 (2003).
Yu, W. C., Song, T. R. A. & Silver, P. G. Temporal velocity changes in the crust associated with the great Sumatra earthquakes. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 103, 2797–2809 (2013).
Pei, S. et al. Seismic velocity reduction and accelerated recovery due to earthquakes on the Longmenshan fault. Nat. Geosci. 12, 387–392 (2019).
Qiu, H., Hillers, G. & Ben-Zion, Y. Temporal changes of seismic velocities in the San Jacinto Fault zone associated with the 2016 Mw 5.2 Borrego Springs earthquake. Geophys. J. Int. 220, 1536–1554 (2020).
Ben-Zion, Y. A critical data gap in earthquake physics. Seismol. Res. Lett. 90, 1721–1722 (2019).
Kong, Q. et al. Machine learning in seismology: Turning data into insights. Seismol. Res. Lett. 90, 3–14 (2019).
Bergen, K. J., Johnson, P. A., De Hoop, M. V. & Beroza, G. C. Machine learning for data-driven discovery in solid Earth geoscience. Science 363, eaau0323 (2019).
McBeck, J., Aiken, J. M., Ben-Zion, Y. & Renard, F. Predicting the proximity to macroscopic failure using local strain populations from dynamic in situ X-ray tomography triaxial compression experiments on rocks. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 543, 116344 (2020).
Zaliapin, I. & Ben-Zion, Y. Earthquake declustering using the nearest-neighbor approach in space-time-magnitude domain. J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth 125, e2018JB017120 (2020).
Hayes, G. P. et al. Continuing megathrust earthquake potential in Chile after the 2014 Iquique earthquake. Nature 512, 295–298 (2014).
The authors are grateful to I. Zaliapin for helping to produce Figs 1,2, R. Hino for providing seafloor-level data, J. Fukuda for contributing Fig. 5 and S. Guérin-Marthe for contributing Fig. 6. They acknowledge support by JSPS KAKENHI grant number JP16H06473, JST CREST grant number JPMJCR1763, Earthquake and Volcano Hazards Observation and Research Program in MEXT, the US National Science Foundation (grant EAR-1722561) and the Southern California Earthquake Center (based on NSF Cooperative Agreement EAR-1600087 and USGS Cooperative Agreement G17AC00047).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information
Nature Reviews Earth & Environment thanks Ze’ev Reches and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Kato, A., Ben-Zion, Y. The generation of large earthquakes. Nat Rev Earth Environ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-00108-w