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Seismic and Geodetic Evidence for Extensive, Long-Lived Fault Damage Zones

Elizabeth S. Cochran, Yong-Gang Li, Peter M. Shearer, Sylvain D. Barbot, Yuri Fialko, & John E. Vidale

Published April 2009, SCEC Contribution #1185

During earthquakes, slip is often localized on preexisting faults, but it is not well understood how the structure of crustal faults may contribute to slip localization and energetics. Growing evidence suggests that the crust along active faults undergoes anomalous strain and damage during large earthquakes. Seismic and geodetic data from the Calico fault in the eastern California shear zone reveal a wide zone of reduced seismic velocities and effective elastic moduli. Using seismic traveltimes, trapped waves, and interferometric synthetic aperture radar observations, we document seismic velocities reduced by 40%– 50% and shear moduli reduced by 65% compared to wall rock in a 1.5-km-wide zone along the Calico fault. Observed velocity reductions likely represent the cumulative mechanical damage from past earthquake ruptures. No large earthquake has broken the Calico fault in historic time, implying that fault damage persists for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. These findings indicate that faults can affect rock properties at substantial distances from primary fault slip surfaces, and throughout much of the seismogenic zone, a result with implications for the amount of energy expended during rupture to drive cracking and yielding of rock and development of fault systems.

Cochran, E. S., Li, Y., Shearer, P. M., Barbot, S. D., Fialko, Y., & Vidale, J. E. (2009). Seismic and Geodetic Evidence for Extensive, Long-Lived Fault Damage Zones. Geology, 37(4), 315-318. doi: 10.1130/G25306A.1.