Northeastern Section - 53rd Annual Meeting - 2018

Paper No. 5-1
Presentation Time: 8:05 AM


COOKE, Michele L., Geosciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003-9297

Laboratory and numerical experiments representing deformation over many earthquake cycles demonstrate that fault evolution includes episodes of fault reorganization that optimize work on the fault system. Consequently, the efficiencies of fault systems do not increase monotonically through their evolution and slip rates and seismic moment rates are not constant. New fault configurations can optimize the external work required to accommodate deformation, suggesting that changes in system efficiency can drive fault reorganization. Laboratory evidence and numerical results show that fault reorganization within accretion, strike-slip and oblique convergent systems is associated with increasing efficiency due to increased fault slip (frictional work and seismic energy) and commensurate decreased off-fault deformation (internal work and work against gravity).

Between episodes of fault reorganization, fault systems may become less efficient as they produce increasing off fault deformation. For example, laboratory and numerical experiments show that the interference and interaction between different fault segments may increase local internal work of a fault system. This accumulation of work triggers fault reorganization as stored work provides the energy required to grow new faults that reorganize the system to a more efficient configuration.

The results of laboratory and numerical experiments reveal that we should expect crustal fault systems to reorganize following periods of increasing inefficiency, even in the absence of changes to the tectonic regime. In other words, fault reorganization doesn’t require a change in tectonic loading. The time frame of fault reorganization depends on fault system configuration, strain rate and processes that relax stresses within the crust. For example, stress relaxation may keep pace with stress accumulation, which would limit the increase in the internal work and gravitational work so that irregularities can persist along active fault systems without reorganization of the fault system. Consequently, steady state behavior, for example with constant fault slip rates, may arise either in systems with high degree of stress-relaxation or occur only within the intervals between episodes of fault reorganization.