Thermomechanical earthquake cycle simulations with rate-and-state friction and nonlinear viscoelasticity

Kali L. Allison, & Eric M. Dunham

Published August 15, 2017, SCEC Contribution #7866, 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #059

We simulate earthquake cycles on a 2D strike-slip fault, modeling both rate-and-state fault friction and an off-fault nonlinear power-law rheology. The power-law rheology involves an effective viscosity that is a function of temperature and stress, and therefore varies both spatially and temporally. All phases of the earthquake cycle are simulated, allowing the model to spontaneously generate earthquakes, and to capture frictional afterslip and postseismic and interseismic viscous flow. We investigate the interaction between fault slip and bulk viscous flow, using experimentally-based flow laws for quartz-diorite in the crust and olivine in the mantle, representative of the Mojave Desert region in Southern California.

We first consider a suite of three linear geotherms which are constant in time, with dT/dz = 20, 25, and 30 K/km. Though the simulations produce very different deformation styles in the lower crust, ranging from significant interseismc fault creep to purely bulk viscous flow, they have almost identical earthquake recurrence interval, nucleation depth, and down-dip coseismic slip limit. This indicates that bulk viscous flow and interseismic fault creep load the brittle crust similarly. Despite these similarities, the predicted surface deformation varies, which might permit discrimination of the deformation mechanism at depth using geodetic observations. The simulations also predict unrealistically high stresses in the upper crust, resulting from the fact that the lower crust and upper mantle are relatively weak far from the fault, and from the relatively small role that basal tractions on the base of the crust play in the force balance of the lithosphere. We also find that for the warmest model, the effective viscosity varies by an order of magnitude in the interseismic period, whereas for the cooler models it remains roughly constant.

Because the rheology is highly sensitive to changes in temperature, in addition to the simulations with constant temperature we also consider the effect of heat generation. We capture both frictional heat generation and off-fault viscous shear heating, allowing these in turn to alter the effective viscosity. The resulting temperature changes may reduce the width of the shear zone in the lower crust and upper mantle, and reduce the effective viscosity.

Key Words
earthquake, viscoelasticity, power law

Allison, K. L., & Dunham, E. M. (2017, 08). Thermomechanical earthquake cycle simulations with rate-and-state friction and nonlinear viscoelasticity. Poster Presentation at 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting.

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