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Published October 2009 | public
Journal Article

Effects of Off-fault Damage on Earthquake Rupture Propagation: Experimental Studies


We review the results of a recent series of papers in which the interaction between a dynamic mode II fracture on a fault plane and off-fault damage has been studied using high-speed photography. In these experiments, fracture damage was created in photoelastic Homalite plates by thermal shock in liquid nitrogen and rupture velocities were measured by imaging fringes at the tips. In this paper we review these experiments and discuss how they might be scaled from lab to field using a recent theoretical model for dynamic rupture propagation. Three experimental configurations were investigated: An interface between two damaged Homalite plates, an interface between damaged and undamaged Homalite plates, and the interface between damaged Homalite and undamaged polycarbonate plates. In each case, the velocity was compared with that on a fault between the equivalent undamaged plates at the same load. Ruptures on the interface between two damaged Homalite plates travel at sub-Rayleigh velocities indicating that sliding on off-fault fractures dissipates energy, even though no new damage is created. Propagation on the interface between damaged and undamaged Homalite is asymmetric. Ruptures propagating in the direction for which the compressional lobe of their crack-tip stress field is in the damage (which we term the 'C' direction) are unaffected by the damage. In the opposite 'T' direction, the rupture velocity is significantly slower than the velocity in undamaged plates at the same load. Specifically, transitions to supershear observed using undamaged plates are not observed in the 'T' direction. Propagation on the interface between damaged Homalite and undamaged polycarbonate exhibits the same asymmetry, even though the elastically "favored" '+' direction coincides with the 'T' direction in this case. The scaling properties of the interaction between the crack-tip field and pre-existing off-fault damage (i.e., no new damage is created) are explored using an analytic model for a nonsingular slip-weakening shear slip-pulse and verified using the velocity history of a slip pulse measured in the laboratory and a direct laboratory measurement of the interaction range using damage zones of various widths adjacent to the fault.

Additional Information

© 2009 Springer. Received: 6 October 2008; accepted: 23 March 2009; published online: 29 July 2009. The authors wish to thank Yehuda Ben-Zion and an anonymous reviewer for many helpful suggestions. The authors acknowledge support of the National Science Foundation collaborative grant EAR-0711171 to the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology. This research was supported by the Southern California Earthquake Center. SCEC is funded by NSF Cooperative Agreement EAR- 0106924 and USGS Cooperative Agreement 02HQAG0008. The SCEC contribution number for this paper is 1227.

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