Earthquake source properties from pseudotachylite

Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
By: , and 



The motions radiated from an earthquake contain information that can be interpreted as displacements within the source and therefore related to stress drop. Except in a few notable cases, the source displacements can neither be easily related to the absolute stress level or fault strength, nor attributed to a particular physical mechanism. In contrast paleo-earthquakes recorded by exhumed pseudotachylite have a known dynamic mechanism whose properties constrain the co-seismic fault strength. Pseudotachylite can also be used to directly address a longstanding discrepancy between seismologically measured static stress drops, which are typically a few MPa, and much larger dynamic stress drops expected from thermal weakening during localized slip at seismic speeds in crystalline rock [Sibson, 1973; McKenzie and Brune, 1969; Lachenbruch, 1980; Mase and Smith, 1986; Rice, 2006] as have been observed recently in laboratory experiments at high slip rates [Di Toro et al., 2006a]. This note places pseudotachylite-derived estimates of fault strength and inferred stress levels within the context and broader bounds of naturally observed earthquake source parameters: apparent stress, stress drop, and overshoot, including consideration of roughness of the fault surface, off-fault damage, fracture energy, and the 'strength excess'. The analysis, which assumes stress drop is related to corner frequency by the Madariaga [1976] source model, is restricted to the intermediate sized earthquakes of the Gole Larghe fault zone in the Italian Alps where the dynamic shear strength is well-constrained by field and laboratory measurements. We find that radiated energy exceeds the shear-generated heat and that the maximum strength excess is ~16 MPa. More generally these events have inferred earthquake source parameters that are rate, for instance a few percent of the global earthquake population has stress drops as large, unless: fracture energy is routinely greater than existing models allow, pseudotachylite is not representative of the shear strength during the earthquake that generated it, or unless the strength excess is larger than we have allowed.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Earthquake source properties from pseudotachylite
Series title Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
DOI 10.1785/0120150344
Volume 106
Issue 6
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Seismological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description 23 p.
First page 2764
Last page 2776
Country Italy
Other Geospatial Gole Larghe fault zone
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