Frictional behavior of oceanic transform faults and its influence on earthquake characteristics
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We use a three-dimensional strike-slip fault model in the framework of rate and state-dependent friction to investigate earthquake behavior and scaling relations on oceanic transform faults (OTFs). Gabbro friction data under hydrothermal conditions are mapped onto OTFs using temperatures from (1) a half-space cooling model, and (2) a thermal model that incorporates a visco-plastic rheology, non-Newtonian viscous flow and the effects of shear heating and hydrothermal circulation. Without introducing small-scale frictional heterogeneities on the fault, our model predicts that an OTF segment can transition between seismic and aseismic slip over many earthquake cycles, consistent with the multimode hypothesis for OTF ruptures. The average seismic coupling coefficient χ is strongly dependent on the ratio of seismogenic zone width W to earthquake nucleation size h*; χ increases by four orders of magnitude as W/h* increases from ∼1 to 2. Specifically, the average χ = 0.15 ± 0.05 derived from global OTF earthquake catalogs can be reached at W/h* ≈ 1.2–1.7. Further, in all simulations the area of the largest earthquake rupture is less than the total seismogenic area and we predict a deficiency of large earthquakes on long transforms, which is also consistent with observations. To match these observations over this narrow range of W/h* requires an increase in the characteristic slip distance dc as the seismogenic zone becomes wider and normal stress is higher on long transforms. Earthquake magnitude and distribution on the Gofar and Romanche transforms are better predicted by simulations using the visco-plastic model than the half-space cooling model.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2012. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research 117 (2012): B04315, doi:10.1029/2011JB009025.
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