Role of Silica Redistribution in the Rate-State Behavior of Megathrusts: Field Observations and Experimental Results

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Donald M Fisher, Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, Department of Geosciences, University Park, PA, United States and Sabine A.M. Den Hartog, Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, University Park, PA, United States
Observations of ancient fault zones and results of high temperature friction experiments indicate that silica redistribution influences the rate (response to velocity increases) and state (time-dependent healing) behavior of megathrusts. The Kodiak Accretionary Complex in Alaska has four shear zones that record plate boundary deformation: the Ghost Rocks mélange, the Uganik thrust, the Uyak mélange, and the central belt of the Kodiak Formation. All these examples of underplated rocks represent top-toward-the-trench shear zones that extend along the plate margin for 100’s of kms. The first three examples were accreted within the seismogenic zone and record a progressive history from stratal disruption and particulate flow to localized shearing on pervasive web-like arrays of scaly microfaults in shales. Microfaults show evidence for silica dissolution and local reprecipitation in dilational stepovers and in intensely veined sandstone blocks. The fourth example (the central belt) was accreted further downdip, and these rocks have pervasive, regularly spaced en echelon quartz vein systems. Microstructures within veins indicate periodic cracking and sealing during progressive simple shear. Silica depletion zones adjacent to veins indicate diffusive transport of silica in response to local chemical potential gradients. A simple 1-D transport-kinetics model indicates that cracks in this case could be filled with quartz in less than a year and in as little as a week. Rock friction experiments on lithologies similar to Kodiak examples depict three distinct regimes of frictional behavior as a function of increasing temperature, with velocity weakening in a T range that can be related to the seismogenic zone. These three regimes are predicted by a model for gouge deformation that includes thermally activated pressure solution during shear of quartz grains embedded in a foliated matrix. The slip instabilities that characterize the seismogenic zone may therefore be related in part to grain scale diffusive mass transfer of silica. The observations of Kodiak Fault zones indicate that silica redistribution also plays an important role in the interseismic period through crack healing and dissolution of silica, both along the plate interface and within the adjacent rocks that store elastic strain.