The transition of dynamic rupture styles in elastic media under velocity-weakening friction

Alice-Agnes Gabriel, Jean-Paul Ampuero, Luis A. Dalguer, & Paul M. Mai

Published September 2012, SCEC Contribution #1654

Although kinematic earthquake source inversions show dominantly pulse-like subshear rupture behavior, seismological observations, laboratory experiments and theoretical models indicate that earthquakes can operate with different rupture styles: either as pulses or cracks, that propagate at subshear or supershear speeds. The determination of rupture style and speed has important implications for ground motions and may inform about the state of stress and strength of active fault zones. We conduct 2D in-plane dynamic rupture simulations with a spectral element method to investigate the diversity of rupture styles on faults governed by velocity-and-state-dependent friction with dramatic velocity-weakening at high slip rate. Our rupture models are governed by uniform initial stresses, and are artificially initiated. We identify the conditions that lead to different rupture styles by investigating the transitions between decaying, steady state and growing pulses, cracks, sub-shear and super-shear ruptures as a function of background stress, nucleation size and characteristic velocity at the onset of severe weakening. Our models show that small changes of background stress or nucleation size may lead to dramatic changes of rupture style. We characterize the asymptotic properties of steady state and self-similar pulses as a function of background stress. We show that an earthquake may not be restricted to a single rupture style, but that complex rupture patterns may emerge that consist of multiple rupture fronts, possibly involving different styles and back-propagating fronts. We also demonstrate the possibility of a super-shear transition for pulse-like ruptures. Finally, we draw connections between our findings and recent seismological observations.

Gabriel, A., Ampuero, J., Dalguer, L. A., & Mai, P. M. (2012). The transition of dynamic rupture styles in elastic media under velocity-weakening friction. Journal of Geophysical Research, 117(B9), B09311. doi: 10.1029/2012JB009468.