Feasibility of Acoustic Monitoring of Strength Drop Precursory to Earthquake Occurrence

Monday, 15 December 2014
Nobuki Kame1, Kohei Nagata1,2, Masao Nakatani1 and Tetsuya Kusakabe1, (1)Univ Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, (2)MEXT, Tokyo, Japan
Rate- and state-dependent friction law (RSF), proposed on the basis of laboratory experiments, has been extensively applied to modeling of earthquake stick-slip cycles. A simple spring-slider model obeying RSF predicts a significant decrease of the frictional strength Phi (the state of contact) that is localized within a few years preceding the earthquake occurrence. On the other hand, recent laboratory experiments successfully monitored the history of the strength by simultaneously measuring the P-wave transmissivity |T| across the frictional interface using a 1-MHz transducer. This suggests a possibility of earthquake forecast by monitoring the strength of a natural fault by acoustic methods.
The present paper explores the feasibility of such monitoring in the field on the basis of the physics of RSF combined with the linear slip model (LSM) employed in the classical acoustic methodology for monitoring an imperfectly welded interface.
The characteristic frequency fc, around which |T| (or reflectivity |R|) has a good sensitivity to the interface strength, is shown to be proportional to the strength and inversely proportional to the representative scale of real contacts. For natural faults fc is estimated to be 1 to 100Hz, which is practicable in the field. The changes of |T| and |R| depend on the ratio of the strength drop to the absolute strength level, the latter of which is not constrained by RSF simulations. Expected changes in wave amplitude in the preslip period would be several percent for strong faults and several tens percent for weak faults, which may be detectable by acoustic methods such as seismic reflection surveys. [Reference] Kame, N., Nagata, K., Kusakabe, T., Nakatani, M., Earth, Planets and Space, Volume 66, Issue 1, 2014, doi:10.1186/1880-5981-66-41