The effect of segmented fault zones on earthquake rupture propagation and termination

Yihe Huang

Accepted December 11, 2017, SCEC Contribution #8089

A fundamental question in earthquake source physics is what can control the nucleation and termination of an earthquake rupture. Besides stress heterogeneities and variations in frictional properties, damaged fault zones (DFZs) that surround major strike-slip faults can contribute significantly to earthquake rupture propagation. Previous earthquake rupture simulations usually characterize DFZs as several-hundred-meter-wide layers with lower seismic velocities than host rocks, and find earthquake ruptures in DFZs can exhibit slip pulses and oscillating rupture speeds that ultimately enhance high-frequency ground motions. However, real DFZs are more complex than the uniform low-velocity structures, and show along-strike variations of damages that may be correlated with historical earthquake ruptures. These segmented structures can either prohibit or assist rupture propagation and significantly affect the final sizes of earthquakes. For example, recent dense array data recorded at the San Jacinto fault zone suggests the existence of three prominent DFZs across the Anza seismic gap and the south section of the Clark branch, while no prominent DFZs were identified near the ends of the Anza seismic gap.
To better understand earthquake rupture in segmented fault zones, we will present dynamic rupture simulations that calculate the time-varying rupture process physically by considering the interactions between fault stresses, fault frictional properties, and material heterogeneities. We will show that whether an earthquake rupture can break through the intact rock outside the DFZ depend on the nucleation size of the earthquake and the rupture propagation distance in the DFZ. Moreover, material properties of the DFZ, stress conditions along the fault, and friction properties of the fault also have a critical impact on rupture propagation and termination. We will also present scenarios of San Jacinto earthquake ruptures and show the parameter space that is favorable for rupture propagation through the Anza seismic gap. Our results suggest that a priori knowledge of properties of segmented fault zones is of great importance for predicting sizes of future large earthquakes on major faults.

Huang, Y. (2017, 12). The effect of segmented fault zones on earthquake rupture propagation and termination. Oral Presentation at 2017 AGU Fall Meeting.