Hot, Fast Faults: Evidence for High-Temperature Slip on Exhumed Faults, and Insights into Seismic Slip Processes

Friday, 18 December 2015: 16:30
302 (Moscone South)
James P Evans1, Alexis K Ault1, Susanne U Janecke1 and Mitchell R Prante1,2, (1)Utah State University, Logan, UT, United States, (2)Shell Oil Company, Houston, TX, United States
Microstructural and geochemical techniques combined with prior observations of naturally occurring faults provide insights into slip rates and slip dimensions of seismicity. We review four indicators for high coseismic paleotemperatures in brittle to semi-brittle faults from a wide range of tectonic settings with mm to km of slip. Thin, high-gloss, Fe-rich slip surfaces indicate high-temperature slip occurred on mm- to m-scales. Elliptical and circular zones of concentric iridescence indicate localized sites of elevated temperature that may be caused by heating at asperity contacts. The surface iridescence is associated with changes in Fe oxidation states detected by X-Ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Minimum temperature increases of 300 °C above ambient are supported by geochemical arguments and up to 800 °C are supported by analogs to high-speed friction experiments in steels and ceramics firing in reduced conditions. The presence of clay-rich foliated fault-related rocks, and the presence of nm- to mm-thick clay coatings indicate that syn-kinematic endothermic reactions occur at a range of scales. We suggest these features reflect temperature increases of ≥100-200 °C for activation energy required to drive the clay alteration is sourced from seismic energy and Schleicher-van der Pluijm-type slip surfaces to record instantaneous slip. Dense, low porosity planar porcelainite zones mm- to cm-thick along fault surfaces are the result of sintering of quartz-clay–feldspar mixtures and indicate T≥1000 °C localized along the surfaces, the result of post-slip cooling. Highly indurated, ultrafine fault-related rocks often consists of comminuted grains, vein fragments, and neocrystallized grains that represent retrograde cooling or alteration after peak heating. These observations and those of other recent workers indicate that many naturally occurring exhumed faults record elevated temperatures. In many cases, careful observations can delineate fault slip-related heating vs. hydrothermally induced alteration associated with the fault zone. These data suggest that naturally occurring faults reflect a range of coseismic to postseismic thermal processes, and enable us to elucidate and test new ideas for how seismic slip is manifested in faults.