Fault valving and pore pressure evolution in simulations of earthquake sequences and aseismic slip.

Research paper by Weiqiang W Zhu, Kali L KL Allison, Eric M EM Dunham, Yuyun Y Yang

Indexed on: 26 Sep '20Published on: 26 Sep '20Published in: Nature communications


Fault-zone fluids control effective normal stress and fault strength. While most earthquake models assume a fixed pore fluid pressure distribution, geologists have documented fault valving behavior, that is, cyclic changes in pressure and unsteady fluid migration along faults. Here we quantify fault valving through 2-D antiplane shear simulations of earthquake sequences on a strike-slip fault with rate-and-state friction, upward Darcy flow along a permeable fault zone, and permeability evolution. Fluid overpressure develops during the interseismic period, when healing/sealing reduces fault permeability, and is released after earthquakes enhance permeability. Coupling between fluid flow, permeability and pressure evolution, and slip produces fluid-driven aseismic slip near the base of the seismogenic zone and earthquake swarms within the seismogenic zone, as ascending fluids pressurize and weaken the fault. This model might explain observations of late interseismic fault unlocking, slow slip and creep transients, swarm seismicity, and rapid pressure/stress transmission in induced seismicity sequences.