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Resolving simulated sequences of earthquakes and fault interactions: implications for physics-based seismic hazard assessment

Valere Lambert, & Nadia Lapusta

Published March 1, 2021, SCEC Contribution #10089

Physics-based numerical modeling of earthquake source processes strives to predict quantities of interest for seismic hazard, such as the probability of an earthquake rupture jumping between fault segments. How to assess the predictive power of numerical models remains a topic of ongoing debate. Here, we investigate how sensitive are the outcomes of numerical simulations of sequences of earthquakes and aseismic slip to choices in numerical discretization and treatment of inertial effects, using a simplified 2-D crustal fault model with two co-planar segments separated by a creeping barrier. Our simulations demonstrate that simplifying inertial effects and using oversized cells significantly affects the resulting earthquake sequences, including the rate of two-segment ruptures. We find that a number of fault models with different properties and modeling assumptions can produce comparable frequency-magnitude statistics and static stress drops but have rates of two-segment ruptures ranging from 0 (single-segment ruptures only) to 1 (two-segment ruptures only). For sufficiently long faults, we find that long-term sequences of events can substantially differ even among simulations that are well-resolved by standard considerations. In such simulations, some outcomes, such as static stress drops, are stable among adequately-resolved simulations, whereas others, such as the rate of two-segment ruptures, can be highly sensitive to numerical procedures and physical assumptions, and hence cannot be reliably inferred. Our results emphasize the need to examine the potential dependence of simulation outcomes on the modeling procedures and resolution, particularly when assessing their predictive value for seismic hazard assessment.

Lambert, V., & Lapusta, N. (2021). Resolving simulated sequences of earthquakes and fault interactions: implications for physics-based seismic hazard assessment. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth,. doi: 10.1002/essoar.10506727.1.