The Influence of Exotic Calcite on the Mechanical Behavior of Quartz Bearing Fault Gouge

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:20 AM
Brett M Carpenter, National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Rome, Italy, Giuseppe Di Stefano, INGV National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Rome, Italy and Cristiano Collettini, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
The interseismic recovery of frictional strength is a fundamental part of the seismic cycle. This restrengthening, and related phenomena, plays a key role in determining the stability and mode of tectonic faulting. Recent experimental data has shown that gouge mineralogy has a strong influence on the rate of frictional healing, with calcite-dominated gouges showing the highest rates. Combining these data with widespread observations of calcite as cement or veins in non-carbonate hosted faults, indicates that the presence of calcite within a fault gouge could play an important role in shallow- and mid-crustal earthquakes.

We report on laboratory experiments designed to explore the mechanical behavior of quartz/calcite mixtures as a means to better understand the evolution of fault behavior in faults where carbonate materials are present. We sheared mixtures of powdered Carrara marble (>98% CaCO3) and disaggregated Ottawa sand (99.8% SiO2) at constant normal stress of 5 MPa under saturated conditions at room temperature. We performed slide-hold-slide tests, 1-3,000 seconds, and velocity stepping tests, 0.1-1000 µm/s, to measure the amount of frictional healing and velocity dependence of friction respectively. Small subsets of experiments were conducted at different boundary conditions.

Preliminary results show that the presence of calcite in quartz-based fault gouge has a hardening effect, both in overall frictional strength, where the strength of our mixtures increases with increasing calcite content, and in single experiments, where mixtures with low percentages of calcite show a consistent strain-hardening trend. We also observe that the rates of frictional healing and creep relaxation increase with increasing calcite content. Finally, our results show that the addition of as little as 2.5% calcite within a fault gouge results in a 30% increase in the rate of frictional healing, with further increases in calcite content resulting in larger increases in the rate of healing.

Combined with our previous work, our results show that the presence of calcite in fault gouge can lead to accelerated frictional healing and velocity-weakening frictional behavior, favoring seismicity at shallow crustal conditions where faults are thought to fail mostly by aseismic creep.