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Earthquake slip between dissimilar poroelastic materials

Eric M. Dunham, & James R. Rice

Published 2008, SCEC Contribution #1124

A mismatch of elastic properties across a fault induces normal stress changes during spatially nonuniform in-plane slip. Recently, Rudnicki and Rice showed that similar effects follow from a mismatch of poroelastic properties (e.g., permeability) within fluid-saturated fringes of damaged material along the fault walls; in this case, it is pore pressure on the slip plane and hence effective normal stress that is altered during slip. The sign of both changes can be either positive or negative, and they need not agree. Both signs reverse when rupture propagates in the opposite direction. When both elastic and poroelastic properties are discontinuous across the fault, steady sliding at a constant friction coefficient, f, is unstable for arbitrarily small f if the elastic mismatch permits the existence of a generalized Rayleigh wave. Spontaneous earthquake rupture simulations on regularized slip-weakening faults confirm that the two effects have comparable magnitudes and that the sign of the effective normal stress change cannot always be predicted solely from the contrast in elastic properties across the fault. For opposing effects, the sign of effective normal stress change reverses from that predicted by the poroelastic mismatch to that predicted by the elastic mismatch as the rupture accelerates, provided that the wave-speed contrast exceeds about 5-10% (the precise value depends on the poroelastic contrast and Skempton's coefficient). For faults separating more elastically similar materials, there exists a minimum poroelastic contrast above which the poroelastic effect always determines the sign of the effective normal stress change, no matter the rupture speed.

Dunham, E. M., & Rice, J. R. (2008). Earthquake slip between dissimilar poroelastic materials. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113(B09304). doi: 10.1029/2007JB005405.