A finite difference method for off-fault plasticity throughout the earthquake cycle

Brittany A. Erickson, Eric M. Dunham, & Arash Khosravifar

Published December 2017, SCEC Contribution #7166

We have developed an efficient computational framework for simulating multiple earthquake cycles with off-fault plasticity. The method is developed for the classical antiplane problem of a vertical strike-slip fault governed by rate-and-state friction, with inertial effects captured through the radiation-damping approximation. Both rate-independent plasticity and viscoplasticity are considered, where stresses are constrained by a Drucker-Prager yield condition. The off-fault volume is discretized using finite differences and tectonic loading is imposed by displacing the remote side boundaries at a constant rate. Time-stepping combines an adaptive Runge-Kutta method with an incremental solution process which makes use of an elastoplastic tangent stiffness tensor and the return-mapping algorithm. Solutions are verified by convergence tests and comparison to a finite element solution. We quantify how viscosity, isotropic hardening, and cohesion affect the magnitude and off-fault extent of plastic strain that develops over many ruptures. If hardening is included, plastic material response saturates after the first event so that the response during subsequent ruptures is effectively elastic. For viscoplasticity without hardening, however, all ruptures generate plastic strain. In all cases, coseismic slip in the shallow sub-surface is diminished compared to slip accumulated at depth during interseismic loading. The evolution of this slip deficit with each subsequent event, however, is dictated by the plasticity model. Integration of the off-fault plastic strain from the viscoplastic model reveals that a significant amount of tectonic offset is accommodated by inelastic deformation (~0.1 m per rupture, or 10% of the tectonic energy budget).

Erickson, B. A., Dunham, E. M., & Khosravifar, A. (2017). A finite difference method for off-fault plasticity throughout the earthquake cycle. Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 109, 50-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jmps.2017.08.002.