Seismic and aseismic deformation at seismogenic faults: from distributed to localized deformation

Tectonic plate motion is accommodated through aseismic and seismic slip on faults, visco-elastic processes, and permanent plastic deformation. These processes control the stress redistribution throughout the Earth’s crust at all spatio-temporal scales, from localized earthquakes to long-term and -wavelength viscous interaction. The contribution of other factors, such as fluids, also play an important role in the mechanism of such processes. Understanding the physics and the energy partitioning between these processes at all scales and in various tectonic settings is essentia​l to assess their impact on the seismic cycle. To improve our comprehension in the partitioning between seismic-aseismic slip and brittle-ductile deformation at all scales, we invite contributions that explore the themes described herein, through geophysical and geological observations, laboratory experiments, numerical modelling, and the integration of multiple approaches.

Convener: Sylvain Michel | Co-conveners: Luca Dal Zilio, Allie Hutchison, Jorge Jara
vPICO presentations
| Fri, 30 Apr, 13:30–15:00 (CEST)

vPICO presentations: Fri, 30 Apr

Chairpersons: Sylvain Michel, Jorge Jara, Luca Dal Zilio
Daniel Faulkner, John Bedford, Nadia Lapusta, and Valère Lambert
Heterogeneity of fault zones is seen at all scales in nature. It may manifest itself in terms of the variability of material property distribution over the fault, of stress heterogeneity brought about by the history of previous earthquake ruptures, and of fault geometry. In this contribution, we consider the effect on fault strength and stability of small-scale heterogeneity in laboratory experiments and large-scale heterogeneity from numerical dynamic rupture modeling. In model laboratory faults at slow slip rates (0.3 and 3 microns/s), the area occupied by rate-weakening gouge (quartz) versus rate-strengthening gouge (clay) was systematically varied and the results compared with homogenized mixtures of the two gouges. We found that the heterogeneous experimental faults were weaker and less stable than their homogenized counterparts, implying that earthquake nucleation might be promoted by fault zone heterogeneity. In elasto-dynamic numerical simulations of sequences of earthquakes and aseismic slip based on rate and state friction but with enhanced dynamic weakening (EDW) through pore fluid pressurization, uniform material properties on the fault plane are assumed, and heterogeneity spontaneously develops by stress variations along the fault arising from differing histories of motion at points along the fault. In these models, ruptures spontaneously nucleate in favorably prestressed regions. Larger ruptures - that result in greater degrees of EDW - are capable of propagating through areas of lower shear stress that would arrest smaller events. This behavior leads to a relationship between rupture size and the average shear stress over the rupture plane before the earthquake occurs. Faults that host larger events may overall appear to be driven by lower average shear stress and hence appear ‘weaker’. It is clear that the apparent fault strength and stability is difficult to predict from either simple homogeneous gouge experiments, or from scaling up of these results. Heterogeneity at all scales will affect the slip behaviour of faults.

How to cite: Faulkner, D., Bedford, J., Lapusta, N., and Lambert, V.: The influence of heterogeneity on the strength and stability of faults, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8058, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-8058, 2021.

Lin Shen, Andy Hooper, John Elliott, and Tim Wright

The 1600 km-long Altyn Tagh Fault (ATF) is a major intra-continental strike-slip fault along the Northern Tibetan Plateau, the slip rate of which has significant implications for our understanding of the present-day tectonic processes of the Tibetan Plateau region. We present an interseismic velocity field along ~1500 km length of the fault, derived from Sentinel-1 interferograms spanning the period between late 2014 and 2019. It is the first time such a large-scale analysis has been carried out for this fault with Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

Using a modified elastic half-space model, we find significant strain accumulation along the 1500 km length of the ATF, at a relatively fast rate of ~10 mm/yr and quite localised along the fault. The results indicate an eastward decrease of the slip rate along the fault from 11.6 ± 1.0 mm/yr to 7.5 ± 1.2 mm/yr over the western portion to the central portion, whereas it increases again to 11.1 ± 1.1 mm/yr over the eastern portion. Furthermore, the results suggest that no significant creeping occurs along the fault.

We find a high slip rate of 11.5 ± 1.0 mm/yr along the south-western segment of the ATF, a region not typically covered by previous studies, is transferred to the structurally linked left-lateral strike-slip Longmu-Gozha Co Fault. It demonstrates that the generation of the NS-trending normal faulting events in this region, such as the 2008 Mw 7.2 Yutian earthquake, is ascribed to the EW-trending extensional stress at the Ashikule step-over zone between the two left-lateral faults. We also find a high surface shear strain rate greater than 0.4 μstrain/yr in this region, which could be caused by the stress loading effects of the recent seismic activities.

To investigate the pattern of strain localisation along the ATF, we fit a shear zone model to the derived long-term InSAR velocity field. Inverting for shear zone width reveals two broad shear zones along the ATF, where the strain is distributed over multiple strands rather than concentrated on a single narrow strand. The broad shear zones explain the high estimates of the locking depth found when using the elastic half-space model and also off-fault seismic activity on the strands away from the ATF in these areas. The results also show a relatively wider shear zone from the central portion eastward, where the ATF breaks into three parallel strands. 

This study suggests that a slip deficit of around 1 m has been accumulated along the ATF over the last century, and indicates that the fault is capable of rupturing with the potential for a magnitude 7.5 or larger earthquake.

How to cite: Shen, L., Hooper, A., Elliott, J., and Wright, T.: Large-scale interseismic deformation along the Altyn Tagh Fault determined from Sentinel-1 InSAR, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10278, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-10278, 2021.

Manon Dalaison, Romain Jolivet, and Elenora van Rijsingenn

Surface fault slip can be continuously monitored at fine spatial resolution from space using InSAR. Based on 5 years of observations (2014-2019), we describe and interpret the InSAR time series of deformation around the Chaman fault, a major strike-slip fault along the boundary between the Indian and Eurasian plates. Aseismic slip was observed on two >100 km long segments, reaching a maximum of 1 cm/yr. In between, a fault segment delimited by a restraining and releasing bend in the fault trace hosted three Mb 4.2, Mw 5.1 and Mw 5.6 earthquakes in our observation period. These earthquakes were followed by significant postseismic slip with characteristic duration between 1.5 to 3 years. Postseismic to coseismic surface slip ratios reach at least 0.6-1.2. In addition, aseismic slip was observed in close spatio-temporal relationship with those earthquakes. Finally, we argue that we detect numerous micro-slip events of Mw<3, although with large uncertainty. We provide an extensive description of the various modes of slip along this plate boundary fault and discuss the mechanical implications of such entangled behavior. 

How to cite: Dalaison, M., Jolivet, R., and van Rijsingenn, E.: From moderate earthquakes to continuous aseismic slip, a variety of ways to release strain along the Chaman fault (Pakistan, Afghanistan). , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3052, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-3052, 2021.

Francois Renard, Jessica McBeck, and Benoît Cordonnier

During fast and slow earthquakes deformation localizes along narrow and quasi-planar fault surfaces. However, processes controlling the localization process develop not only on the fault surface but also in the volume surrounding the fault zone. How these processes transition from a dispersed to more localized distribution of damage remains controversial. Moreover, to what degree the localization process controls the speed of coseismic slip is an open question. We perform a series of 4D X-ray microtomography experiments on crystalline rocks (granite, marble), with and without a pre-existing slip surface, and image the development of damage while each sample is loaded until system-size brittle failure. We image and deform the samples under in situ stress conditions of a few kilometers depth using the Hades deformation apparatus installed on the tomography beamline ID19 at the European Radiation Synchrotron Facility. By imaging all the microfractures that develop in the samples, we characterize their individual geometry and the geometry of the entire microfracture network. The results show that, when a pre-existing slip surface exists in the sample, slow earthquakes can generate damage in the volume around the fault, leading to catastrophic faulting. When no pre-existing fault is present, microfractures accumulate and can lead to two end-member types of earthquakes. One type is a catastrophic failure of the sample that occurs when the microfractures link into a macroscopic fault, producing a fast earthquake. Alternatively, the microfractures can grow without significant fracture coalescence, leading to the slow development of a fault network with a transient increase of macroscopic deformation rate that resembles that of a slow earthquake. We conclude that damage coalescence influences the slow and fast behaviours of earthquake slip.

How to cite: Renard, F., McBeck, J., and Cordonnier, B.: Damage coalescence controls slow and fast faulting: Insights from dynamic X-ray microtomography experiments, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1577, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-1577, 2021.

Véronique Dansereau, Nikolai Shapiro, Michel Campillo, and Jérôme Weiss

The rheological stratification of the subducting frontiers of plate tectonics is nowadays recognized. So is the spatial correlation between the transient Episodic Tremor and Slip (ETS) processes and the brittle-ductile transition that sits between the seismic zone at the surface and the aseismic zone at depth. However, the mechanical processes underlying ETS, their relation to a mixed brittle-ductile rheology and the feedbacks between highly localized and distributed deformations and between ETS and major earthquakes are still not well established. One of the main reason is the lack of direct models that can represent the deformation of subduction zones as a whole (the continental and oceanic plates, their interface and the upper mantle) and that can be compared to seismic and geodetic observations of ETS. In this context, we propose a new continuum, Finite Elements-based model that can serve as a tool to improve the current understanding of the seismic-aseismic, brittle-ductile transition within the Earth crust.

The framework is based on the visco-elastic Burgers rheology. Here, the Maxwell element accounts for the permanent (transient and steady state) deformations within the shearing zone and both plates and the Kelvin-Voigt element accounts for the visco-elastic adjustment of the upper mantle. A unique constitutive equation is applied to the entire system, but the mechanical behavior of each of its parts is differentiated by allowing the elastic modulus and effective viscosity associated with the Maxwell element to evolve in both space and time according to the level of fracturing at the sub-grid scale. This is represented by a scalar damage variable, which increases locally when the state of stress becomes overcritical with respect to a Mohr-Coulomb criterion and decreases logarithmically due to sealing at the sub-grid scale. The coupling is such that within undamaged zones, the relaxation of the stresses is stable and set by the bulk viscosity of the bedrock while within damaged zones, such as the shearing interface of the plates, the deformation is accomodated by a combination of seismic, brittle fracturing and aseismic, transient stress relaxation processes.

The idealized 2-dimensional simulations of the brittle-ductile transition in a subduction zone that will be presented shows that the model represents a damaged shearing zone between the continental and oceanic plates. This zone, which concentrates the deformation, is maintained in time and space through a competition between brittle fracturing events, stress redistribution and healing processes. In between large damage events, associated with major earthquakes, the damage activity is correlated over a wide range of time scales.

How to cite: Dansereau, V., Shapiro, N., Campillo, M., and Weiss, J.: A Burgers-Brittle model for the seismic-aseismic, brittle-ductile transition within the Earth crust, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7547, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-7547, 2021.

Eugenio Mandler, Maria Elina Belardinelli, Enrico Serpelloni, Letizia Anderlini, Adriano Gualandi, and Francesco Pintori

The 2016-2017 Central Italy earthquake sequence was characterized by three main events striking the central Apennines between August 2016 and October 2016 with a Mw ∈ [5.9 to 6.5], plus four earthquakes occurring in January 2017 with a Mw ∈ [5.0; 5.5]. Here we study 85 Global Positioning System (GPS) stations active during the post-seismic phase in a region within a radius of 100 km around the epicentral area, including near and far-field domains. We separate the post-seismic deformation from other, mainly seasonal, deformation signals present in ground displacement time-series via a variational Bayesian Independent Component Analysis (vbICA) technique. Excluding the postseismic transient signal, we found that all the other components are due to hydrological processes, and found no evidence of pre-seismic deformation signals with a spatial and temporal pattern that can be ascribed to a precursory deformation. We study the role played by afterslip on the main structures activated during the co-seismic phase, and we infer the activation during the post-seismic phase of the Paganica fault, which is located further south of the 2016-2017 epicenters and did not rupture during the co-seismic phase. We investigate an aseismic activation of the ∼ 2 − 3 km thick subhorizontal layer of seismicity, which bounds at depth the SW-dipping normal faults where the mainshocks nucleated, and which has been interpreted as a shear zone. Moreover we consider the possibility that the shear zone marks the brittle-ductile transition including the viscoelastic relaxation of the lower crust and upper mantle as a driving mechanism of the post-seismic displacement. However, neither afterslip nor viscoelasticity can fully explain the observations alone: the former is capable of satisfactorily explaining only the data in the epicentral area but it generally underestimates the displacement in the far-field domain; the latter cannot simultaneously explain the displacement observed in the near-field and far-field domains. Hence we infer a mixed contribution of these two mechanisms. 

How to cite: Mandler, E., Belardinelli, M. E., Serpelloni, E., Anderlini, L., Gualandi, A., and Pintori, F.: Post-seismic deformation related to the 2016 central Italy seismic sequence from GPS displacement time-series, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16448, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-16448, 2021.

Nicolai Nijholt, Wim Simons, Joni Efendi, Dina Sarsito, and Riccardo Riva

The 2018 Mw 7.5 Palu earthquake is a remarkable strike-slip event due to its nature as a shallow supershear fault rupture across several segments and a destructive tsunami that followed co-seismic deformation. GPS offsets in the wake of the 2018 earthquake display a transient in the surface motions of northwest Sulawesi. A Bayesian approach identifies (predominantly a-seismic) deep afterslip on and below the co-seismic rupture plane as the dominant physical mechanism causing the cumulative, post-seismic, surface displacements whereas viscous relaxation of the lower crust and poro-elastic rebound contribute negligibly. We confirm a correlation between shallow supershear rupture and post-seismic surface transients with afterslip activity in the zone below an inter-seismically locked fault plane where the slip rate tapers from zero to creeping.

How to cite: Nijholt, N., Simons, W., Efendi, J., Sarsito, D., and Riva, R.: A transient in surface motions dominated by deep afterslip subsequent to a shallow supershear earthquake: the 2018 Mw 7.5 Palu case., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4332, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-4332, 2021.

Adam Beall, Fabio A. Capitanio, Ake Fagereng, and Ylona van Dinther

The largest and most devastating earthquakes on Earth occur along subduction zones. Here, long-term plate motions are accommodated in cycles of strain accumulation and release. Episodic strain release occurs by mechanisms ranging from rapid earthquakes to slow-slip and quasi-static creep along the plate interface. Slip styles can vary between and within subduction zones, though it is unclear what controls margin-scale variability. Current approaches to seismo-tectonics primarily relate the stress state and seismogenesis at subduction margins to interface material properties and plate kinematics, constrained by recorded seismic slip, GPS motions and integrated strain. At larger spatio-temporal scales, significant progress has been made towards the understanding of subduction dynamics and emerging self-consistent plate motions, tectonics and stress coupling at plate margins. The margin stress state is ultimately linked to the force balance arising from interactions between the slab, mantle flow and upper plate. These mantle and lithosphere dynamics are thus expected to govern the tectonic regimes under which seismicity occurs. It remains unclear how these longer- and shorter-term perspectives can be reconciled. We review the aspects of large-scale subduction dynamics that control tectonic loading at plate margins, discuss possible influences on the stress state of the plate interface, and summarise recent advances in integrating the earthquake cycle and large-scale dynamics. It is plausible that variations in large-scale subduction dynamics could systematically influence seismicity, though it remains unclear to what degree this interplay occurs directly through the plate interface stress state and/or indirectly, corresponding to variation of other subduction zone characteristics. While further constraints of the geodynamic controls on the nature of the plate interface and their incorporation into probabilistic earthquake models is required, their ongoing development holds promise for an improved understanding of the global variation of large earthquake occurrence and their associated risk.

How to cite: Beall, A., Capitanio, F. A., Fagereng, A., and van Dinther, Y.: Subduction zone seismo-dynamics: how to bridge the gap between long-term subduction dynamics and megathrust seismicity?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2322, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-2322, 2021.

Julien Renou and Jessica Hawthorne

Slow slip events (SSEs) have been observed beneath the Nicoya peninsula in Costa-Rica for more than 10 years, and are accompanied by tremor activity both updip and downdip of the seismogenic region. However, tremor detection in this region can be challenging and time-consuming, as many local earthquakes occur amidst the tremor, so envelope-based techniques do not perform as well as they do in other regions. Matched-filter techniques are more appropriate to detect many of the individual low-frequency earthquakes (LFEs) that constitute tremor, but these techniques can also be time-consuming and restricted to small areas because they require a set of template seismograms for each LFE family.

In this study, we attempt to take advantage of the many local earthquakes to use the ordinary earthquakes' waveforms as templates to detect tremor all along the subduction interface. We use an extension of matched-filter techniques, a phase coherence (or matched field) method which can identify signals from locations near the template event even if the template and target signals have different source time functions. Because of this specificity of the coherence method, we should be able to detect tremor co-located with an ordinary earthquake, as long as they share similar Green's functions.

We create template waveforms from a catalog created by the Nicoya Seismic Cycle Observatory, whose events are located using local 3-D velocity model (DeShon et al. 2006). We first apply the method during a SSE event in June 2009, and initial investigations suggest that the tremor and earthquakes are similar enough: high coherence values are found at time of known tremor. Bursts of activity with various duration close to the trench are successfully detected, and their location is consistent with slip distribution of the SSE. Our final goal is to identify potential migration of these bursts related to the propagation of the main front of the SSE, as well as investigate the relation between their released seismic energy and duration. These findings will be finally discussed in comparison with tremor characteristics in other subduction areas.

How to cite: Renou, J. and Hawthorne, J.: Detecting tectonic tremor during slow slip events in Costa-Rica using templates of ordinary earthquakes, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13312, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-13312, 2021.

Allie Hutchison and Piero Poli

We create an extended catalog of dynamically triggered tremor in the Parkfield region of the San Andreas Fault for teleseismic and regional earthquakes from 2001-2020 with a magnitude threshold of M >7. After selection of clear dynamic triggering episodes, each tremor event is precisely located using a multi station approach. Using this new catalog of triggered tremor, we quantitatively evaluate the conditions under which tremor is triggered. In particular, we study the effect of frequency dependent peak dynamic strain, peak ground velocity, and the incident azimuth of triggering waves. We further try to assess if the triggering potential in the San Andreas Fault evolves as function of time. Finally, we search for differences and similarities (e.g. frequency content, location) between triggered and regular tremor. Our observations provide new insights about the physical conditions necessary for triggering tremor, and in general, on the physical processes generating non-volcanic tremors.

How to cite: Hutchison, A. and Poli, P.: Extended Observations and New Insights of Dynamically Triggered Tremor in Parkfield, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12141, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-12141, 2021.

Daniel Gittins and Jessica Hawthorne

The San Andreas fault has been observed to creep at the surface along the 175km section between San Juan Bautista and Cholame (Titus et al., 2011). This section is known as the creeping section and accumulates slip in two modes: during continuous background slip at a long term slip rate and in accelerated slip bursts known as creep events (Gladwin et al., 1994). But the size and importance of creep events remain unclear. Some researchers treat them as small, ~100-m-wide near-surface events (Gladwin et al., 1994), but others suggest that many creep events reach 4 km depth, connecting the surface to the seismogenic zone (Bilham et al., 2016). So, in this study, we systematically characterize the along-strike rupture extents of creep events along the San Andreas Fault, to determine if these are small, localized phenomena or large, segment-rupturing events.

We detect creep events and analyse their propagation using 18 USGS creepmeter records from the San Andreas Fault. Each creepmeter operated for at least 9 of the years between 1985 and 2020. To begin we systematically detect creep events using a cross-correlation approach. We identify periods that have significant slip and signals with high similarity to a template creep event. This automated detection allows us to produce a catalogue with 2000 creep events. The method detects at least 95% of the creep events identified by visual inspection.

Once we have found creep events at each creepmeter, we examine how creep events propagate. We compare creep event detections between pairs of creepmeters to determine how many creep events propagate from one creepmeter to the other. At the northern end of the creeping section, we observe that 18-28% of the creep events found at Harris Ranch are also found at Cienega Winery within 24hrs. This coincident timing implies that 18-28% of creep events in the north have an along-strike length of at least 4 km. Many creep events at the southern end of the creeping section appear to be even larger. For instance, a few events appear to be at least 31 km long; 10-38% of creep events at Slacks Canyon also observed at Work Ranch (31 km away) within 24hrs. These large along-strike rupture extents imply that creep events connect the slip and stress field over large regions of the San Andreas Fault. These events may play an important role in the slip dynamics of the creeping section.

How to cite: Gittins, D. and Hawthorne, J.: Identifying 2000 small and large creep events on the San Andreas Fault., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7452, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-7452, 2021.

Yu Jiang and Pablo González

How earthquakes initiate and run-away into major ruptures is still a challenging research topic, that will benefit from increasing our capability to observe processes from the seismogenic source regions. In recent years, two models for earthquake nucleation have been proposed to explain earthquake sequences, a slow-slipping model and a cascade model, based mostly on the analysing seismic data. Here we use geodetic data to contribute to the study of seismogenic source regions during earthquake sequences. Earthquake swarms are unusual as they do not obey observational physics laws, e.g., Gutemberg-Richter law. This deviation might be to a disproportioned contribution of aseismic processes, and hence provide an opportunity to investigate the role of aseismic behaviour in the nucleation and propagation of earthquakes.

Here, we study a shallow seismic swarm in Nevada, USA, in 2011. We process satellite radar images to form differential interferograms and to quantify the surface displacements. From the interferograms, we observe a clear surface displacement signal (~4 cm in line-of-sight direction) consistent with slip along a N-S striking normal fault, before the largest magnitude event (M4.6) in the swarm. We also find that interferograms across the M4.6 are dominated by slip on a NE-SW striking fault. Thus, we consider slip along a fault system with a geometry consisting of two fault planes. To interpret the surface displacement, we invert for its optimal geometry directly using the interferometric wrapped phase. Based on the fault geometry together with inferred surface ruptures, we construct a smooth fault plane with triangular dislocations. Then, we extend our previous method to obtain distributed fault slip models from the wrapped phase. We implement a physics-based linear elastic crack model with no stress singularities, coupled with a linear time inversion with optimal regularization method to estimate the temporal evolution of fault slip. We apply this method to the 2011 Hawthorne swarm geodetic data to test the two conceptual earthquake nucleation and propagation models. The inversion reveals (1) two slip maxima; a narrow (1km2) slip area on the southern fault with high average slip (0.8m) occurring before the M4.6 event; and a wider (40km2) slip area on the northern fault which ruptured during and after the M4.6 event and with lower average slip (0.1m); (2) our results are more consistent with a cascade model of discrete slip patches, rather than a slow-slipping model thought as a growing elliptical crack; (3) the aseismic (geodetic) moment ratio is variable from 100% before the M4.6 event, but remains larger than 60% after it. 

The study of the 2011 Hawthorne swarm allows us to illuminate fault slip in much greater detail than usually possible. We conclude that there were significant aseismic fault processes, most likely slow-slip or localized fluid-enhanced fault slip, along with discrete segments of the fault plane active before and after the largest earthquake in this swarm. This study contributes to highlighting the importance of using geodetic data to understand the role of aseismic processes during swarms. An important step towards improving our understanding of the nucleation and propagation of earthquakes.

How to cite: Jiang, Y. and González, P.: High-resolution spatio-temporal fault slip using InSAR observations: insights on seismic and aseismic slip during a shallow crust earthquake swarm, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-6280, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-6280, 2021.

Kali Allison, Laurent Montesi, and Eric Dunham

The interaction between the seismogenic portion of faults and their ductile roots is central to understanding the mechanics of seismic cycles. It is well established that faults are highly localized within the cold and brittle upper crust, but less is known about fault and shear zone structure in the warmer, more ductile, lower crust and in the upper mantle. Increasing temperature with depth causes two transitions in behavior: a frictional transition from seismic to aseismic fault behavior and a transition from brittle to ductile off-fault deformation (BDT). To explore the effects of these two transitions on seismic cycle characteristics (e.g., recurrence interval, nucleation depth, and down-dip limit of coseismic rupture), we simulate seismic cycles on a 2D strike-slip fault. All phases of the earthquake cycle are simulated, allowing the model to spontaneously generate earthquakes and to capture aseismic fault slip and off-fault viscous flow in the interseismic period. The fault is represented with rate-and-state friction. In the off-fault material, distributed viscous flow occurs through dislocation creep. We also consider two possible weakening mechanisms that may be active in lower crustal shear zones: shear heating and grain size reduction, which changes the ductile rheology from dislocation to diffusion creep. This model makes it possible to self-consistently simulate the variations of stress, strain rate, and grain size in the vicinity of a strike-slip fault.

We find that the viscous shear zone beneath the fault (defined as the region of elevated viscous strain rate) is roughly elliptically shaped, extending up to 10 km below the fault and with a width of 1 to 3 km. When weakening mechanisms are neglected, the BDT occurs below the depth of the transition from seismic to aseismic fault slip. In these cases, seismic cycle characteristics are similar to those of a traditional elastic cycle simulation that neglects viscoelastic deformation. However, the inclusion of shear heating, which produces a thermal anomaly relative to the background geotherm, shallows the BDT enough to limit the down-dip propagation of coseismic slip in some cases. In these cases, earthquakes penetrate 1-2 km into the shear zone, consistent with observations of zones in which both viscous flow and coseismic slip occur. Also, in these simulations, very little aseismic fault slip occurs. Instead, tectonic plate motion is accommodated primarily through coseismic slip and bulk viscous flow. Preliminary simulations that include the effects of grain size reduction within the shear zone show similar effects. Both weakening mechanisms narrow the shear zone by up to 20%, suggesting that the fault also plays a large role in controlling shear zone localization.

How to cite: Allison, K., Montesi, L., and Dunham, E.: Earthquake cycles and shear zones: interplay between earthquakes, aseismic fault slip, and bulk viscous deformation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13925, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-13925, 2021.

Diego Molina, Jean-Paul Ampuero, and Andres Tassara

Subduction earthquakes are among the most devastating natural hazards across the planet and yet the factors controlling their size remain poorly understood. It is thus important to investigate the mechanisms controlling rupture arrest and runaway, in particular the nature of rupture barriers (areas where earthquakes tend to stop). Geodetic and seismic observations along several faults suggest that barriers are mostly creeping (low seismic coupling). It is often interpreted that creeping barriers are governed by velocity-strengthening friction (VS), which is a sufficient condition for stable slip. However, some barriers have been observed to host intermediate magnitude earthquakes or to be completely ruptured by a large earthquake. Therefore, the frictional properties of seismic barriers may not be restricted to VS. In particular, the possibility of velocity-weakening (VW) areas behaving as barriers needs to be further explored.

In this work, we characterize the multiple behaviors of seismic barriers on faults governed by velocity-weakening (VW) rate-and-state friction, using earthquake cycle simulations. We consider a 2D model, where a central VW area has a larger critical slip distance (Dc) or higher normal stress (σ) than the surrounding VW areas. We found that the central areas can behave as permanent or temporal barriers to earthquake propagation if their Dc or σ are large enough. On permanent barriers, creep occurs steadily. However, on temporary barriers, the locking degree changes throughout the cycle, despite frictional properties remaining constant.

To understand the efficiency of VW barriers (that is, to determine under what conditions they can stop ruptures), we use fracture mechanics theory. We found that barrier efficiency depends mainly on the ratio between the fracture energy of the barrier, which is proportional to Dc and normal stress, and the energy release rate of the neighboring seismic segment, which is proportional to its stress drop squared and length. If geological features of the overriding and subducting plates affect Dc and σ on the megathrust, our results support the idea of structural controls on the seismic behavior of megathrusts. Thus, understanding how geological features are linked to fracture energy may contribute to seismic hazard assessment by constraining rupture arrest and multi-segment ruptures in earthquake scenarios.

How to cite: Molina, D., Ampuero, J.-P., and Tassara, A.: The slip behavior of velocity-weakening fault barriers, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7752, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-7752, 2021.

Alison Seidel and Henriette Sudhaus

Crustal earthquakes are events of sudden stress release throug­h rock failure, for example as a consequence of continuous and long-term stress buildup at tectonic faults that eventually exceeds the strength of rock. Before failure, under increasing stress at a fault, the surrounding crust is slowly deforming. The amount and pattern of crustal deformation carries information about location and potential magnitude of future earthquakes.

Time series of space-borne interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data can be used to precisely measure the surface motion, which corresponds to the crustal deformation, in the radar line-of-sight and across large areas. These observations open the opportunity to study fault loading in terms of location, size of locked parts at faults and their slip deficit. Here we study the North Anatolian Fault (NAF), a major right-lateral strike-slip fault zone of about 1500 km length in the north of Turkey and we create its first large-scale 3D finite-fault model based on InSAR data.

We use the InSAR time series of data recorded by ESA’s Envisat SAR satellite between 2002 and 2010 (Hussain et al., 2018 and Walters et al., 2014). We represent the fault with several vertical, planar fault segments that trace the NAF with reasonable resolution. The medium model is a layered half space with a viscoelastic lower crust and mantle. Several GNSS velocity measurements are used to apply a trend correction and calibrate the InSAR time series data to an Eurasia-fixed-reference frame. We use the plate motion difference of the Anatolian and the Eurasian plates calculated through an Euler pole to set up a back-slip finite-fault model. We then optimize the back-slip as the slip deficit, the width and the depth of the locked fault zone at each segment to achieve a good fit to the measured surface motion.

We find shallow locking depths and small slip deficits in the eastern and westernmost regions of the NAF, while the central part shows both deeper locking depths and larger slip deficits for the observation period. For both parameters the trends are in an overall agreement to earlier studies. There, InSAR-time series data have been used to calculate slip deficits at the North Anatolian fault with 2D models and/or assuming a homogeneous and purely elastic medium. Local modeled differences therefore might be connected to differences in the modeling approaches, but also remain subject to further investigations and discussions.

Our model provides a very suitable basis for future time-dependent modeling of the slip deficit at the NAF that includes also more recent InSAR time series based on data from the Sentinel-1 radar satellite mission of ESA.

How to cite: Seidel, A. and Sudhaus, H.: Slip-deficit estimation with a 3D fault model of the North Anatolian Fault by using InSAR time series, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14513, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-14513, 2021.

Romain Jolivet, Bertrand Rouet-Leduc, Jorge Jara, Manon Dalaison, Claudia Hulbert, Sylvain Michel, Paul A. Johnson, Ziyadin Çakir, Semih Ergintav, Alpay Özdemir, and Ugur Dogan

While some faults remain locked for tens to hundreds of years, some active faults slip slowly, either continuously or episodically. The discovery of slow, generally silent, slip at the turn of the century led to a profound modification of our understanding of the mechanics of faulting, shedding light on the dynamics of fault slip. Such dynamics areis controlled by the past history of stress along the fault plane (i.e. historical ruptures), fluids circulating in the crust and the rheology of the crust and fault plane. Understanding the influence of these different factors requires dense observations, as suggested by the large range of spatial and temporal scales involved in the control of the slip velocity along a fault. Specifically, the smallest scales of slow slip have beenwere inferred by the observation of tremors or low frequency events, interpreted as the chatter of a fault plane while it slips slowly. We are missing direct observations of such kilometer-scale slow slip events and continental creeping faults are an obvious target for such observationsfor such observations.


Aseismic slip along the North Anatolian Fault was recognized in the 1960’s by the observation of offset man-made features without earthquakes recorded. Following these early observations, multiple geodetic studies focused on recording aseismic slip and analyzed the average rate of shallow slow slip in the vicinity of the town of Ismetpasa. GPS, InSAR and creepmeter data all converge toward an aseismic slip rate reaching 1 cm/yr in places, with significant along- strike variations. Furthermore, earlyHowever, creepmeter measurements in the 80’s, confirmed by records from a more recent instrument, suggest aseismic slip is currently episodic, occurring in bursts of slip. Recent InSAR data from the Cosmo-SkyMed constellation captured a month-long slow slip event with a maximum of 2 cm/yr of slip.


We propose to analyze the geodetic record to search for slow slip events over the 2015-2020 period. We take advantage of a dense network of continuous GNSS stations installed in 2017 and of time series of Sentinel 1 SAR data to identify at least 3 slow slip events along the North Anatolian Fault. Thanks to the dense temporal sampling of the GNSS records, we describe faithfullyobserve the onset of slow slip. We use a deep learning algorithm to extract the surface signature of the slow slip events from the InSAR time series, highlighting a slow rupture front propagating along strike. We compare the occurrences of slow slip events with the local fault geometry, the average distribution of kinematic coupling and the historical seismicity. We discuss the mechanical implications of such detailed description of slow slip along an active fault. In conclusion, while slow slip rate averaged over periods longer than 2-3 years seems constant over the last 40 years, identification of slow slip events suggests this apparently constant rate results from slow slip events over multiple spatial and temporal scales.

How to cite: Jolivet, R., Rouet-Leduc, B., Jara, J., Dalaison, M., Hulbert, C., Michel, S., Johnson, P. A., Çakir, Z., Ergintav, S., Özdemir, A., and Dogan, U.: Slow slip events along the North Anatolian Fault, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4494, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-4494, 2021.

Patricia Martínez-Garzón, Virginie Durand, Stephan Bentz, Taylan Turkmen, Grzegorz Kwiatek, Georg Dresen, Murat Nurlu, and Marco Bohnhoff

Recent laboratory and field observations show that fault seismic and aseismic slip may occur concurrently. Here, we combine microseismicity recordings from a temporary near-fault seismic network (SMARTnet) and borehole strainmeter data from the eastern Marmara region in NW Turkey to track seismic and aseismic deformation around the hypocentral region of a MW 4.5 earthquake that occurred in 2018. The strainmeter data show a clear strain signal transient starting at the time of the MW 4.5 event and lasting for about 150 days. We study about 1,200 microseismic events following the mainshock within and beyond the mainshock fault rupture. The temporal distribution of the seismicity reveals a strong temporal clustering, including four semi-periodic seismic sequences each containing more than 50 events in two days. Two seismic sequences occurred during the strain transient showing different characteristics compared to two sequences occurring afterwards. Seismicity occurring during the transient displayed typical characteristics driven by aseismic slip, such as the activation of a broader region from the mainshock, and the absence of a clear mainshock in each sequence. Seismic sequences occurring after the transient correspond to typical mainshock-aftershock sequences and activated a region closer to the original MW 4.5 mainshock. We suggest post-strain transient seismicity originate from stress redistribution and breaking of remaining asperities. Our observations from a newly installed combined dense seismic and strainmeter network in the eastern Sea of Marmara region allows identifying repeated triggering of aseismic transients within an observation period of three years suggesting these may occur more often than previously thought.

How to cite: Martínez-Garzón, P., Durand, V., Bentz, S., Turkmen, T., Kwiatek, G., Dresen, G., Nurlu, M., and Bohnhoff, M.: Near-fault seismic monitoring reveals the long-lasting activation of a local fault in the Marmara region controlled by slow slip , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7710, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-7710, 2021.

Virginie Durand, Patricia Martínez-Garzón, Adriano Gualandi, Mahmud Haghighi, Mahdi Motagh, Georg Dresen, and Marco Bohnhoff

More and more studies worldwide show that seismic and aseismic slip can occur jointly, impacting the seismic hazard in a region. It is thus important to be able to reconstruct the deformation partitioning and fault interactions. In this study, we focus on the eastern Sea of Marmara region south of the megalopolis of Istanbul (Turkey). In this region, the plate-bounding North Anatolian Fault (NAF) is splitting into several branches. The northern branch is locked and is considered to host the nucleation zone of a M~7 earthquake expected for the region. In 2016, a 3-days long foreshock sequence preceded a MW 4.2 event located at the junction of the two or more sub-branches. It has been argued that this sequence may have been driven by aseismic slip involved in the earthquake nucleation (Malin et al., 2018). Starting around the time of this earthquake, a large strain signal, lasting 50 days, was identified on a single strainmeter station located ~30km from the M4.2 epicenter (Martinez-Garzon et al., 2019). To better characterize this sequence, we revisit it adding new types of data: we analyze GPS and InSAR data together with reprocessed strainmeter recordings of all the availaible stations in the region during 18 months framing the observed strain signal. To enhance the tectonic features in the strainmeter data, we apply a variational Bayesian Independent Component Analysis (vbICA, Gualandi et al. 2015). Following the M4.2 earthquake, we highlight a 50 km westward migration of the seismicity starting from its epicentral area and lasting 6 months. Increases in the seismic activity correspond to variations in the tectonic components of the recordings at two nearby strainmeters. The first changes in seismicity and strainmeter data occur 2.5 months before the MW4.2 event, and are also concomitant with a variation in the trend of the GPS data. The GPS data, along with the strainmeter ones, exhibit a second clear change at the time of the mainshock, that is also lasting two months. Similarly, the InSAR data highlight a variation in the time series around the time of the earthquake, lasting several weeks. The combination of these different types of measurements covering various signal-frequency bands of deformation in the eastern Sea of Marmara highlights the presence of a measurable large-scale and long-lasting deformation transient that begins and ends several weeks before and after the occurrence of a Mw4.2 earthquake. These observations show that further reducing the observational gap both in terms of detection threshold and frequency band allows to decipher signals that usually remain undetected. This is non-trivial but relevant for seismic hazard and risk assessment especially in case of submarine faults collocated with population centers, as is the case of the study region.

How to cite: Durand, V., Martínez-Garzón, P., Gualandi, A., Haghighi, M., Motagh, M., Dresen, G., and Bohnhoff, M.: Deciphering deformation along submarine fault branches below the eastern Sea of Marmara (Turkey): insights from seismicity, strainmeter, GPS and InSAR data, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8651, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-8651, 2021.

Stefano Aretusini, Francesca Meneghini, Elena Spagnuolo, Christopher Harbord, and Giulio Di Toro

In subduction zones, seismic slip at shallow crustal depths can lead to the generation of tsunamis. Large slip displacements during tsunamogenic earthquakes are attributed to the low coseismic shear strength of the fluid-saturated and non-lithified clay-rich fault rocks. However, because of experimental challenges in confining these materials, the physical processes responsible of the coseismic reduction in fault shear strength are poorly understood. Using a novel experimental setup, we measured pore fluid pressure during simulated seismic slip in clay-rich materials sampled from the deep oceanic drilling of the Pāpaku thrust (Hikurangi subduction zone, New Zealand). Here we show that seismic slip is characterized by an initial decrease followed by an increase of pore pressure. The initial pore pressure decrease is indicative of dilatant behavior. The following pore pressure increase, enhanced by the low permeability of the fault, reduces the energy required to propagate earthquake rupture. We suggest that thermal and mechanical pressurisation of fluids facilitates seismic slip in the Hikurangi subduction zone, which was tsunamigenic about 70 years ago. Fluid-saturated clay-rich sediments, occurring at shallow depth in subduction zones, can promote earthquake rupture propagation and slip because of their low permeability and tendency to pressurise when sheared at seismic slip velocities.

How to cite: Aretusini, S., Meneghini, F., Spagnuolo, E., Harbord, C., and Di Toro, G.: Fluid pressurisation and earthquake propagation in the Hikurangi subduction zone, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8241, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-8241, 2021.

Zhiguo Deng and Torsten Dahm

Intraplate deformation is often small but can nowdays be resolved from high precision GNSS velocity fields derived from decade-long time series and high precision network or point wise  solutions if uncertainties are smaller than ~0.2 mm/a.

If local effects are discarded, dense velocity fields may resolve regional patterns of intraplate deformation and motion, which are related to the bending of lithospheric plates, to mantle upwelling, the diffuse or zoned deformation along structural weaknesses or faults, and the rotation of rigid blocks within a plate. 

We derive for the first time, dense high precision network solutions at 323 GNSS stations in Germany and adjacent areas and resolve regions experiencing uplift with velocities of up to ~2 mm/a, rotational relative motions with angular velocities of ~0.7±0.3 mas/a, and horizontal shear along an extended,  NS trending zone with strain rates in the range of 10-8 1/a. 

We integrate European dense velocity solutions into our dataset to discuss the geodynamic context to European microplate motions, the Alpine collision, the structure of the European mantle, Quaternary volcanism and historical seismicity. 

Unexpectedly, the zones of high horizontal strain rates only partly correlate to seismicity. Such a non-correlation between ongoing horizontal strain and seismicity has been recognized before. We discuss possible reasons for the absence of intraplate seismicity in regions experiencing recent strain, including the stress shadow effects if the strain buildup is reducing shear stresses from plate tectonics. The combination of GNSS derived dense velocity fields with time dependent seismicity models may change our current understanding of intraplate seismicity and impact the assessment of intraplate seismic hazard in future. 

How to cite: Deng, Z. and Dahm, T.: Dense GPS derived deformation and rotation of intraplate blocks in Central Europe - comparison to seismicity and volcanism, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1096, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-1096, 2021.