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An experimental investigation into the role of phyllosilicate content on earthquake propagation during seismic slip in carbonate faults.

Bullock, R.J. and De Paola, N. and Holdsworth, R.E. (2015) 'An experimental investigation into the role of phyllosilicate content on earthquake propagation during seismic slip in carbonate faults.', Journal of geophysical research : solid earth., 120 (5). pp. 3187-3207.


Carbonate faults commonly contain small amounts of phyllosilicate in their slip zones, due to pressure solution and/or clay smear. To assess the effect of phyllosilicate content on earthquake propagation in carbonate faults, friction experiments were performed at 1.3 m/s on end-members and mixtures of calcite, illite-smectite, and smectite gouge. Experiments were performed at 9 MPa normal load, under room humidity and water-saturated conditions. All dry gouges show initial friction values (μ i ) of 0.51–0.58, followed by slip hardening to peak values o f 0.61– 0.76. Slip weakening then ensues, with frictio n de creasing to steady state values (μ ss )of0.19–0.33 within 0.17–0.58 m of slip. Contrastingly, wet gouges containing 10–50 wt % phyllosilicate exhibit μ i values between 0.07 and 0.52 followed by negligible or no slip hardening; rather, steady state s liding (μ ss ≪ 0.2) is attained almost imme diately. Microstruc turally, dry gouges show intense cataclasis and w ear within localized principal slip zones, plus evidence for thermal decomposition of calcite. Wet gouges exh ib it distr ib uted defo rmation, less intens e cataclasis, and no evidenc e of thermal decomposition. It is proposed that in wet gouges, slip is distributed across a network of w eak phyllosilicate formed during axial loa ding compaction prio r to s hear. This explains the (1) subdued cataclasis a nd associated lack of slip hardening, (2) distributed nature of deformation, and (3) lack of evidence for thermal decomposition, due to low friction and lack of slip localization. These findings imply that just 10% phyllosilicate in the slip zone of fluid-saturated carbonate fault s can (1) dramatical ly change their frictional behavior, facilitating rupture propagation to the surface, and (2) significantly lower frictional heating, preventing development of microscale seismic markers.

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Publisher statement:© 2015. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:29 April 2015
Date deposited:11 August 2015
Date of first online publication:04 May 2015
Date first made open access:No date available

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