We consider whether mm-scale earthquake-like seismic events generated in laboratory experiments are consistent with our understanding of the physics of larger earthquakes. This work focuses on a population of 48 very small shocks that are foreshocks and aftershocks of stick–slip events occurring on a 2.0 m by 0.4 m simulated strike-slip fault cut through a large granite sample. Unlike the larger stick–slip events that rupture the entirety of the simulated fault, the small foreshocks and aftershocks are contained events whose properties are controlled by the rigidity of the surrounding granite blocks rather than characteristics of the experimental apparatus. The large size of the experimental apparatus, high fidelity sensors, rigorous treatment of wave propagation effects, and in situ system calibration separates this study from traditional acoustic emission analyses and allows these sources to be studied with as much rigor as larger natural earthquakes. The tiny events have short (3–6 μs) rise times and are well modeled by simple double couple focal mechanisms that are consistent with left-lateral slip occurring on a mm-scale patch of the precut fault surface. The repeatability of the experiments indicates that they are the result of frictional processes on the simulated fault surface rather than grain crushing or fracture of fresh rock. Our waveform analysis shows no significant differences (other than size) between the M -7 to M -5.5 earthquakes reported here and larger natural earthquakes. Their source characteristics such as stress drop (1–10 MPa) appear to be entirely consistent with earthquake scaling laws derived for larger earthquakes.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Laboratory generated M -6 earthquakes|
|Series title||Pure and Applied Geophysics|
|Contributing office(s)||Earthquake Science Center|