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Scaling seismic fault thickness from the laboratory to the field

Abstract : Pseudotachylytes originate from the solidification of frictional melt, which transiently forms and lubricates the fault plane during an earthquake. Here we observe how the pseudotachylyte thickness a scales with the relative displacement D both at the laboratory and field scales, for measured slip varying from microns to meters, over six orders of magnitude. Considering all the data jointly, a bend appears in the scaling relationship when slip and thickness reach ∼1 mm and 100 µm, respectively, i.e. MW > 1. This bend can be attributed to the melt thickness reaching a steady‐state value due to melting dynamics under shear heating, as is suggested by the solution of a Stefan problem with a migrating boundary. Each increment of fault is heating up due to fast shearing near the rupture tip and starting cooling by thermal diffusion upon rupture. The building and sustainability of a connected melt layer depends on this energy balance. For plurimillimetric thicknesses (a > 1 mm), melt thickness growth reflects in first approximation the rate of shear heating which appears to decay in D−1/2 to D−1, likely due to melt lubrication controlled by melt + solid suspension viscosity and mobility. The pseudotachylyte thickness scales with moment M0 and magnitude MW; therefore, thickness alone may be used to estimate magnitude on fossil faults in the field in the absence of displacement markers within a reasonable error margin.
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Submitted on : Saturday, December 26, 2020 - 9:42:12 AM
Last modification on : Monday, December 28, 2020 - 3:30:50 AM

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Thomas Ferrand, Stefan Nielsen, Loic Labrousse, Alexandre Schubnel. Scaling seismic fault thickness from the laboratory to the field. Journal of Geophysical Research : Solid Earth, American Geophysical Union, 2020, Accepted Manuscript, ⟨10.1029/2020JB020694⟩. ⟨insu-03088354⟩

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