Nonplanar faults: Mechanics of slip and off-fault damage

James H. Dieterich, & Deborah E. Smith

Under Review 2009, SCEC Contribution #1280

Stress interactions and sliding characteristics of faults with random fractal waviness in a purely elastic medium differ both qualitatively and quantitatively from those of faults with planar surfaces. With the non-planar fault models, solutions for slip diverge as resolution of the fractal features increases, and the scaling of fault slip with fault rupture dimension becomes nonlinear. We show that the nonlinear scaling of slip and divergence of solutions arise because stresses from geometric interactions at irregularities along nonplanar faults grow with increasing slip and produce backstresses that progressively impede slip. However, in real materials with finite strength, yielding will halt the growth of the interaction stresses, which will profoundly affect slip of nonplanar faults. We infer that in the brittle seismogenic portion of the Earth’s crust, off-fault yielding occurs on pervasive secondary faults. Predicted rates of stress relaxation with distance from major faults with random fractal roughness follow a power-law relationship that is consistent with reported clustering of background seismicity up to 15 kilometers from faults.

Dieterich, J. H., & Smith, D. E. (2009). Nonplanar faults: Mechanics of slip and off-fault damage. Pure and Applied Geophysics, (under review).