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Rupture-dependent breakdown energy in fault models with thermo-hydro-mechanical processes

Valere R. Lambert, & Nadia Lapusta

Published 2020, SCEC Contribution #10991

Substantial insight into earthquake source processes has resulted from considering frictional ruptures analogous to cohesive-zone shear cracks from fracture mechanics. This analogy holds for slip-weakening representations of fault friction that encapsulate the resistance to rupture propagation in the form of breakdown energy, analogous to fracture energy, prescribed in advance as if it were a material property of the fault interface. Here, we use numerical models of earthquake sequences with enhanced weakening due to thermal pressurization of pore fluids to show how accounting for thermo-hydro-mechanical processes during dynamic shear ruptures makes breakdown energy rupture-dependent. We find that local breakdown energy is neither a constant material property nor uniquely defined by the amount of slip attained during rupture, but depends on how that slip is achieved through the history of slip rate and dynamic stress changes during the rupture process. As a consequence, the frictional breakdown energy of the same location along the fault can vary significantly in different earthquake ruptures that pass through. These results suggest the need to reexamine the assumption of predetermined frictional breakdown energy common in dynamic rupture modeling and to better understand the factors that control rupture dynamics in the presence of thermo-hydro-mechanical processes.

Lambert, V. R., & Lapusta, N. (2020). Rupture-dependent breakdown energy in fault models with thermo-hydro-mechanical processes. Solid Earth, 11(6), 2283-2302. doi: 10.5194/se-11-2283-2020.