Nonuniform Prestress From Prior Earthquakes and the Effect on Dynamics of Branched Fault Systems

Benchun Duan, & David D. Oglesby

Published May 2007, SCEC Contribution #984

To examine the effects of branched fault geometry on the dynamics of fault systems in the long term, we perform multicycle simulations on generic faulting models. An explicit finite element algorithm is used to simulate spontaneous dynamic rupture of earthquakes. The fault stress during the interseismic period is evaluated by an analytical viscoelastic model. We find that the fault prestress field becomes highly nonuniform near the branch point and on the two branch segments over multiple earthquake cycles, owing to the branched fault geometry and stress interaction between the two segments. The principal prestress on faults rotates over multiple earthquake cycles and departs from the regional stress field significantly near the branch point. After a number of earthquake cycles, the branched fault systems evolve to a steady state in which several patterns of the fault prestress and earthquake rupture repeat. The nonuniform prestress developed from previous earthquakes has large effects on the rupture and slip patterns. Several different rupture scenarios can occur on a given branched fault system. In addition, backward branching can occur in the nonuniform prestress field, either driven by slip on the “stem” of the fault system or through a triggering mechanism. These modeling results may have important implications for understanding fault-branching behavior observed in the 1992 Landers, the 1999 Hector Mine, and the 2002 Denali fault earthquakes and for seismic hazard analysis in the areas where branched fault systems exist.

Duan, B., & Oglesby, D. D. (2007). Nonuniform Prestress From Prior Earthquakes and the Effect on Dynamics of Branched Fault Systems. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112(B05308). doi: 10.1029/2006JB004443.