Dept. of Geosciences Colloquium: Activation and Arrest of Thermal Pressurization in Localized Faults
Dr. Nir Badt, University of Pennsylvania
Thermal Pressurization (TP) is expected to be a dominant frictional weakening mechanism during earthquakes. However, due to experimental limitations there is a lack of direct evidence for the activation of TP in controlled laboratory conditions and most of our knowledge is derived from field studies and theoretical predictions. We present experiments performed by a rotary-shear apparatus where TP is activated in localized faults in Frederick diabase under constant normal stress of 50 MPa, confining pressure of 45 MPa and initial pore water pressure of 25 MPa. We show that by changing the permeability of the host rock we can control the shear stress drop during a TP event in the experimental fault. The TP events are short-lived in bare-surface faults as the opening of existing fractures around the fault plane drains the excess pore fluid. Wider, gouge-filled faults show more persistent frictional weakening, but at a slower rate, which is attributed to the compressibility of the gouge. In addition, we test the effects of transient fault dilation on the duration of a TP event through an expansion of the prevailing TP model, using a one-dimensional numerical simulation. We conclude that dynamic changes to the hydraulic diffusivity around the fault plane and persistent fault dilation, due to geometrical irregularities, are the most likely mechanisms to arrest TP during an earthquake.
Event Organizer: Dr. Roy Barkan