Development of the asperity-matrix structure in fault zones: a model for strength reduction and generation of earthquakes

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Toru Takeshita, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
Seismologists have now believed that the fault interface is characterized by the asperity-matrix structure, where the upper and lower plates are strongly coupled at the asperity, and the matrix, which surrounds the asperity, is deformed by creeping. Earthquakes are generated by dynamic rupture only in the non-creeping hard asperity, where the strain energy is accumulated if the asperity and matrix are mechanically coupled to a certain degree. In this presentation, we will argue that this structure is developed as brittle fracturing proceeds aided by dissolution-precipitation creep in particular at the brittle-ductile transition zone, which leads to the strength reduction and seimogenesis in both crust and subduction zones. We have been studying deformation processes and mechanisms in rocks at brittle-ductile transition conditions, based on microstructural analyses in naturally deformed rocks. For example, we reported that pervasive micro-faulting in the high-P/T Sambagawa quartz schist at brittle-ductile transition conditions, where a volume fraction of micro-shear zones consisting of both very-fine grained dynamically recrystallized quartz and white mica increased with increasing deformation (Takeshita and El-Fakharani, 2013). We believe that the resultant structure, “undeformed lenses surrounded by microshear zones” can be correlated with the asperity-matrix structure in the thin section scale, which could have occurred in the mesoscopic to macroscopic scales (cf. Schrank et al., 2008). It is inferred that the rocks became softened with increasing volume fraction of micro-shear zones, because dissolution-precipitation creep could have occurred at low differential stresses in the sheared zones. Further, cataclasites were formed along the Median Tectonic Line in the Cretaceous to Paleogene, where new minerals precipitated from fluids in the space created by fracturing at the conditions of brittle-ductile transition. The fracturing was accompanied by element migration via fluids, the degree of which increased with increasing degree of fracturing. In conclusion, deformation occurred by dissolution-mass transfer-precipitation assisted by fracturing under the conditions of brittle-ductile transition, by which significant weakening could have been generated in rocks.