Nonlinear Viscoelastic Stress Transfer As a Possible Aftershock Triggering Mechanism

Friday, 19 December 2014
Xiaoming Zhang and Robert Shcherbakov, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada
The earthquake dynamics can be modelled by employing the spring-block system [Burridge and Knopoff, 1967]. In this approach the earthquake fault is modelled by an array of blocks coupling the loading plate and the lower plate. The dynamics of the system is governed by the system of equations of motion for each block. It is possible to map this system into a cellular automata model, where the stress acting on each block is increased in each time step, and the failing process (frictional slip) is described by stress transfer rules [Olami et al, 1992]. The OFC model produces a power-law distribution for avalanche statistics but it is not capable of producing robust aftershock sequences which follow Omori's law.

We propose a nonlinear viscoelastic stress transfer mechanism in the aftershock triggering. In a basic spring-block model setting, we introduce the nonlinear viscoelastic stress transfer between neighbouring blocks, as well as between blocks and the top loading plate. The shear stress of the viscous component is a power-law function of the velocity gradient with an exponent smaller or greater than 1 for the nonlinear viscoelasticity, or 1 for the linear case.

The stress transfer function of this nonlinear viscoelastic model has a power-law time-dependent form. It features an instantaneous stress transmission triggering an instantaneous avalanche, which is the same as the original spring-block model; and a power-law relaxation term, which could trigger further aftershocks. We incorporate this nonlinear viscoelasticity mechanism in a lattice cellular automata model. The model could exhibit both the Gutenberg-Richter scaling for the frequency-magnitude distribution and a power-law time decay of aftershocks, which is in accordance with Omori's law. Our study suggests that the stress transfer function may play an important role in the aftershock triggering.

We have found that the time decay curve of aftershocks is affected by the shape of the stress transfer function. The stress transfer function of linear viscoelasticity has an time-dependent exponential form, and the corresponding aftershock occurrence rate exhibits an exponential decay. The stress transfer function of nonlinear viscoelasticity has a time-dependent power-law form, this results in a power-law decay of the aftershock occurrence rate.