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The potential for supershear earthquakes in damaged fault zones – theory and observations

Huang, Yihe and Ampuero, Jean-Paul and Helmberger, Don V. (2016) The potential for supershear earthquakes in damaged fault zones – theory and observations. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 433 . pp. 109-115. ISSN 0012-821X. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.10.046.

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The potential for strong ground shaking in large earthquakes partly depends on how fast the earthquake rupture propagates. It is observed that strike-slip earthquakes usually propagate at speeds slower than the Rayleigh wave speed (v_R) but occasionally jump to speeds faster than the S wave speed (v_s), or supershear speeds. Supershear earthquakes can be more catastrophic and cause unusually large ground motions at long distances. Here we use both fully dynamic rupture simulations and high-resolution seismic observations to show that supershear earthquakes can be induced by damaged fault zones, the low-velocity layers of damaged rocks that typically exist around major faults and serve as waveguides for high-frequency energy. In contrast to supershear ruptures in homogeneous media, supershear ruptures in damaged fault zones can occur under relatively low fault stress and propagate stably at speeds within the range usually considered as unstable.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription California Earthquake Data Center (SCEDC)
Ampuero, Jean-Paul0000-0002-4827-7987
Additional Information:© 2015 Elsevier B.V. Received 11 June 2015; Received in revised form 24 October 2015; Accepted 26 October 2015; Available online 6 November 2015. This work was supported by the NSF (grants EAR-0944288 and EAR-1151926) and SCEC (funded by NSF EAR-0106924 and USGS 02HQAG0008 cooperative agreements). The seismic data is available from Southern California Earthquake Data Center (SCEDC) at We thank Roland Bürgmann, Greg Beroza, Hiroo Kanamori and Luis Rivera for discussions and comments.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:earthquake rupture; supershear; damaged fault zone
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160114-114621459
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Yihe Huang, Jean-Paul Ampuero, Don V. Helmberger, The potential for supershear earthquakes in damaged fault zones – theory and observations, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 433, 1 January 2016, Pages 109-115, ISSN 0012-821X, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:63687
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:14 Jan 2016 20:05
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 23:20

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