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Dynamic faulting under rate-dependent friction

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We discuss the effects of rate-dependent friction on the propagation of seismic rupture on active faults. Several physicists using Burridge and Knopoff's box and spring model of faulting have proposed that fault complexity may arise from the spontaneous development of a self-similar stress distribution on the fault plane. If this model proves to be correct, it has important consequences for the origin of the complexity of seismic sources. In order to test these ideas on a more realistic earthquake model, we developed a new boundary integral equation method for studying rupture propagation along an antiplane fault in the presence of nonlinear rate-dependent friction. We study rupture dynamics of models with single and twin asperities. In our models, asperities are places on the fault with a higher value of prestress. Othewise all fault parameters are homogeneous. We show that for models with such asperities, a slip velocity weakening friction leads to the propagation of supersonic healing phases and to the spontaneous arrest of fracture if the prestress outside the asperities is low enough. For models with asperities, we can also observe narrow slip velocity pulses, qualitatively similar to the so-called Heaton pulses observed in some earthquake accelerograms. We also observe a complex distribution of stress after the rupture that depends on details of the initial distribution of asperities and on the details of the friction law.

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Cochard, A., Madariaga, R. Dynamic faulting under rate-dependent friction. PAGEOPH 142, 419–445 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00876049

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Key words

  • Seismicity
  • fracture
  • elastodynamics
  • friction
  • earthquakes
  • boundary integral equations