Slow-slip events in semi-brittle serpentinite fault zones

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Arjun Goswami, Sylvain Barbot


Slow-slip events are earthquake-like events only with much lower slip rates. While peak coseismic velocities can reach tens of meters per second, slow-slip is on the order of 1E-7 m/s and may last for days to weeks. Under the rate-and-state model of fault friction, slow-slip is produced only when the asperity size is commensurate with the critical nucleation size, a function of frictional properties. However, it is unlikely that all subduction zones embody the same frictional properties. In addition to friction, plastic flow of antigorite-rich serpentinite may significantly influence the dynamics of fault slip near the mantle wedge corner. Here, we show that the range of frictional parameters that generate slow slip is widened in the presence of a serpentinized layer along the subduction plate interface. We observe increased stability and damping of fast ruptures in a semi-brittle fault zone governed by both brittle and viscoelastic constitutive response. The rate of viscous serpentinite flow, governed by dislocation creep, is enhanced by high ambient temperatures. When effective viscosity is taken to be dynamic, long-term slow slip events spontaneously emerge. Integration of rheology, thermal effects, and other microphysical processes with rate-and-state friction may yield further insight into the phenomenology of slow slip.



Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Subduction zone, serpentinite, slow-slip


Published: 2018-03-14 17:30

Last Updated: 2018-03-14 17:36

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Academic Free License (AFL) 3.0

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