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Friction in Cold Ice within Outer Solar System Satellites with Reference to Thermal Weakening at High Sliding Velocities

Norman H. Sleep

Accepted 2019, SCEC Contribution #9344

The icy shells of Enceladus and Europa consist from top down of cold (~100 K) ice at low (<0.1 MPa) pressure; cold ice at high pressure up to ~10 MPa; and warm ice near 273 K the base. The pressure ~10 MPa and temperature near 273 K of basal ice within Enceladas and Europa are similar to that within terrestrial glaciers that are known to have seismicity (icequakes). Warm ice easily melts during sliding so its icequakes are qualitatively explained and expected on these satellites if the macroscopic strain rates are comparable to those within terrestrial glaciers subjected to oceanic tides. However, cold ice at high pressures does not readily macroscopically melt during sliding. A dynamic weakening mechanism for crustal faults in rock may be applicable to Enceladus and Europa. Micron-scale real contacts support ~0.4 GPa shear tractions and normal tractions on rapidly sliding ice faults. At sliding velocities above ~0.1 m s 1, the asperity tips of the contacts become hot and weak in ice. The macroscopic friction depends on the average strength of the asperity tips during the lifetimes of contact. The strength of the asperity tips self-organizes so that frictional heating balances the heat lost from the asperity tip by conduction. The macroscopic coefficient of friction at co-seismic sliding velocities decreases to a modest fraction of the low-velocity coefficient of friction, but does not approach zero. This velocity-weakening mechanism likely allows major icequakes within the cold interiors of Europa and Enceladus.

Key Words
Enceladus; Europa; Icy moons; fault physics; dynamic weakening

Sleep, N. H. (2019). Friction in Cold Ice within Outer Solar System Satellites with Reference to Thermal Weakening at High Sliding Velocities. Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, (accepted). doi: 10.1029/2019JE006030.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Outreach, Fault and Rupture Mechanics (FARM)