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Earthquake Nucleation on Geometrically Complex Faults

  • Author(s): Fang, Zijun
  • Advisor(s): Xu, Guanshui
  • et al.
Abstract

We have employed numerical approaches to study earthquake nucleation on geometrically complex faults governed by either slip-dependent friction or rate- and state- dependent friction. The interactions of fault friction, complex fault geometry and remote slow stressing from plate tectonics are investigated. In particular, we focus on characterizing three important physical aspects of an earthquake: the occurrence time, hypocenter location and earthquake source dimensions. Using a slip dependent friction law, we have investigated earthquake nucleation on both thrust and normal dip-slip faults with changes in dip (bends) at depth. Our results show that earthquakes tend to nucleate at shallower depth on thrust faults as compared to those on normal faults with the same geometry. Nucleation time increases significantly as the fault plane are bent more severe for both thrust and normal faults. Using the rate- and state-dependent friction, we studied nucleation on two parallel planar faults with step-over features. We focus on investigating how nucleation is affected by the offset between the two faults. We found that for faults with compressional step-overs, earthquakes tend to nucleate the end of the overlapping zone when the offset is small, but generally nucleate further away from the overlapping end as the offset becomes larger. For faults with extensional step-overs, nucleation always occurs near the overlapping end for all the offsets considered. Our studies provide better understanding of the effects of fault geometry on earthquake nucleation and form a basis for the study of nucleation on large scale geometrically complex fault systems such as fault systems in Southern California. Our results may also provide realistic earthquake source conditions for rupture dynamics studies which at present largely employ ad hoc source conditions.

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