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Structural Properties and Deformation Patterns of Evolving Strike-slip Faults: Numerical Simulations Incorporating Damage Rheology

Yaron Finzi, Elizabeth H. Hearn, Yehuda Ben-Zion, & Vladimir Lyakhovsky

Published October 2009, SCEC Contribution #1231

We present results on evolving geometrical and material properties of large strike-slip fault zones and associated deformation fields, using 3-D numerical simulations in a rheologically-layered model with a seismogenic upper crust governed by a continuum brittle damage framework over a viscoelastic substrate. The damage healing parameters we employ are constrained using results of test models and geophysical observations of healing along active faults. The model simulations exhibit several results that are likely to have general applicability. The fault zones form initially as complex segmented structures and evolve overall with continuing deformation toward contiguous, simpler structures. Along relatively-straight mature segments, the models produce flower structures with depth consisting of a broad damage zone in the top few kilometers of the crust and highly localized damage at depth. The flower structures form during an early evolutionary stage of the fault system (before a total offset of about 0.05 to 0.1 km has accumulated), and persist as continued deformation localizes further along narrow slip zones. The tectonic strain at seismogenic depths is concentrated along the highly damaged cores of the main fault zones, although at shallow depths a small portion of the strain is accommodated over a broader region. This broader domain corresponds to shallow damage (or compliant) zones which have been identified in several seismic and geodetic studies of active faults. The models produce releasing stepovers between fault zone segments that are locations of ongoing interseismic deformation. Material within the fault stepovers remains damaged during the entire earthquake cycle (with significantly reduced rigidity and shear-wave velocity) to depths of 10 to 15 km. These persistent damage zones should be detectable by geophysical imaging studies and could have important implications for earthquake dynamics and seismic hazard.

Finzi, Y., Hearn, E. H., Ben-Zion, Y., & Lyakhovsky, V. (2009). Structural Properties and Deformation Patterns of Evolving Strike-slip Faults: Numerical Simulations Incorporating Damage Rheology . Pure and Applied Geophysics, 166(10-11), 1537-1573. doi: 10.1007/s00024-009-0522-1.