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Published February 2008 | Published
Journal Article Open

Post-seismic reloading and temporal clustering on a single fault


Geological studies show evidence for temporal clustering of large earthquakes on individual fault systems. Since post-seismic deformation due to the inelastic rheology of the lithosphere may result in a variable loading rate on a fault throughout the interseismic period, it is reasonable to expect that the rheology of the non-seismogenic lower crust and mantle lithosphere may play a role in controlling earthquake recurrence times.We study this phenomenon using a 2-D, finite element method continuum model of the lithosphere containing a single strike-slip fault. This model builds on a previous study using a 1-D spring-dashpot-slider analogue of a single fault system to study the role of Maxwell viscoelastic relaxation in producing non-periodic earthquakes. In our 2-D model, the seismogenic portion of the fault slipswhen a predetermined yield stress is exceeded; stress accumulated on the seismogenic fault is shed to the viscoelastic layers below and recycled back to the seismogenic fault through viscoelastic relaxation. We find that random variation of the fault yield stress from one earthquake to the next can cause the earthquake sequence to be clustered; the amount of clustering depends on a non-dimensional number,W, called theWallace number defined as the standard deviation of the randomly varied fault yield stress divided by the effective viscosity of the system times the tectonic loading rate. A new clustering metric based on the bimodal distribution of interseismic intervals allows us to investigate clustering behaviour of systems over a wide range of model parameters and those with multiple viscoelastic layers. For models with W ≳ 1 clustering increases with increasing W, while those with W ≾ 1 are unclustered, or quasi-periodic.

Additional Information

© 2007 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2007 RAS. Accepted 2007 September 19; Received 2007 July 14; in original form 2007 March 12. We thank Eric Hetland for insightful discussions on this work. We also acknowledge careful reviews from two anonymous reviewers and Dr M. Cocco. This work was partially funded by NSF grant EAR-0229868. Caltech Seismological Laboratory contribution 9169.

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