Simulations of Earthquake Cycles in Heterogeneous Media: the Effects of Sedimentary Basins on Rupture Mode

Monday, 15 December 2014
Kali L Allison and Eric M Dunham, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States
We have implemented a parallel code that simulates earthquake cycles on a strike-slip fault in two dimensions. The fault is governed by rate-and-state friction with depth-dependent parameters. The upper portion of the fault, above the seismogenic depth, is velocity-weakening, while the lower portion is velocity-strengthening. The method uses a spatial discretization that accommodates variable off-fault material properties. To simulate tectonic loading, the remote boundaries are driven at half the relative long-term slip rate.

Preliminary results suggest that material heterogeneity significantly affects system behavior in certain parts of parameter space. In a homogeneous half-space, events that rupture the full seismogenic depth occur periodically. In contrast, the presence of a sedimentary basin, represented by an elliptic region of decreased shear modulus and density, results in a more complex sequence of events. Two types of rupture emerge: sub-basin and surface-rupturing events. All ruptures nucleate at the seismogenic depth, but for the sub-basin events the rupture fails to penetrate through the basin to the surface. Each sub-basin event leaves a stress concentration at the bottom of the basin, the presence of which enables the next event to rupture to the surface. For deeper and more compliant basins, the number of sub-basin events required before the occurrence of a surface-rupturing event increases. We have begun to explore this, focusing particularly on the effects of varying basin depth and shear modulus. We are also investigating the effects of incorporating a lithostatic normal stress gradient on the fault and velocity-strengthening within the basin. Additionally, previous work was limited to a state evolution distance $D_c$ of 8~mm, several orders of magnitude greater than laboratory values. The parallel implementation allows us to investigate the effect of decreasing this value. Ultimately, this exploration will increase our understanding of how sedimentary basins affect the earthquake cycle.