EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Going from stable creep to aseismic slow slip events in the ductile realm

Marcel Thielmann1 and Thibault Duretz2
Marcel Thielmann and Thibault Duretz
  • 1Bayerisches Geoinstitut, Universität Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany (
  • 2Géosciences Rennes, Université de Rennes 1, Rennes, France

The accommodation of motion on faults spans a large spectrum of slip modes, ranging from stable creep to earthquakes. While seismic slip modes certainly have the largest impact on the surface due to the induced ground shaking, it has been recognized that slow aseismic slip modes relax most of the accumulated stresses on a fault. It has also been suggested that aseismic slip controls seismic events, thus making this kind of slip mode key for earthquake prediction.

Despite the importance of aseismic slow slip, its underlying physical mechanisms are still unclear. Commonly, slow slip events are modeled in terms of frictional failure, employing a rate-and-state model of fault friction, often also invoking fluids that alter frictional properties on the fault. However, at larger depths, frictional processes become increasingly difficult to activate due to the increase in ambient pressure and ductile processes are more likely to dominate deformation.

Here we therefore investigate deep aseismic slip processes governed by ductile deformation mechanisms using 2D numerical models, where we employ a composite viscoelastic rheology combined with grain size reduction and shear heating as weakening processes. We show that the collaborative action of these two weakening mechanisms is sufficient to create the entire spectrum of aseismic slip, ranging from stable creep to long-term slow slip events. The results show that ductile deformation does not necessarily result in stable slip and induces slip modes with considerably larger velocities than the far-field plate velocities. Moreover, the propagation of ductile ruptures induces large stresses in front of the rupture tip which may also trigger short-term seismic events.

How to cite: Thielmann, M. and Duretz, T.: Going from stable creep to aseismic slow slip events in the ductile realm, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-18554,, 2020


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  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-18554, Marco Herwegh, 05 May 2020

    Great study!


    Can you guess on the effect of grain size reduction kinetics?

    Kind regards



    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Marcel Thielmann, 05 May 2020

      Hi Marco,

      what I can say so far is that the kinetics of grain size reduction have a strong impact on shear zone formation, in particular on the timing and the maximum stresses reached. If grain size reduction is very slow, it won't have any effect and shear heating will "do the job", but stresses will have to be significantly larger (and thus potentially unrealistic). If it is too fast, then the whole slab will weaken before the shear zone can form. We therefore need to be in a certain "window", which we seem to have hit here. Quantifying this window is currently still not done, but we are working on it.



      • CC2: Reply to AC1, Marco Herwegh, 05 May 2020

        Thanks Marcel and all the best for exploring the parameter space of the window.

        Kind regards,