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G : fracture energy, friction and dissipation in earthquakes.

Nielsen, S. and Spagnuolo, E. and Violay, M. and Smith, S. and Toro, G. and Bistacchi, A. (2016) 'G : fracture energy, friction and dissipation in earthquakes.', Journal of seismology., 20 (4). pp. 1187-1205.


Recent estimates of fracture energy G ′ in earthquakes show a power-law dependence with slip u which can be summarized as G ′ ∝ u a where a is a positive real slightly larger than one. For cracks with sliding friction, fracture energy can be equated to G f : the post-failure integral of the dynamic weakening curve. If the dominant dissipative process in earthquakes is friction, G ′ and G f should be comparable and show a similar scaling with slip. We test this hypothesis by analyzing experiments performed on various cohesive and non-cohesive rock types, under wet and dry conditions, with imposed deformation typical of seismic slip (normal stress of tens of MPa, target slip velocity > 1 m/s and fast accelerations ≈ 6.5 m/s2). The resulting fracture energy G f is similar to the seismological estimates, with G f and G ′ being comparable over most of the slip range. However, G f appears to saturate after several meters of slip, while in most of the reported earthquake sequences, G ′ appears to increase further and surpasses G f at large magnitudes. We analyze several possible causes of such discrepancy, in particular, additional off-fault damage in large natural earthquakes.

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Publisher statement:Open Access © The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access at This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Date accepted:15 February 2016
Date deposited:05 May 2016
Date of first online publication:31 March 2016
Date first made open access:No date available

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