Localizing interseismic deformation around locked strike-slip faults




Zhu, Yijie

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Localized geodetic deformation of an approximately arctangent shape around locked strike-slip faults is widely reported, but there are also important exceptions showing distributed interseismic deformation. Understanding the controlling mechanism is important to the interpretation of geodetic observations for hazard assessment and geodynamic analysis. In this thesis, I use simple finite element models to separately study the two major contributors to the deformation: far-field loading and previous earthquakes. The models feature a vertical strike-slip fault in an elastic layer overlying a viscoelastic substrate of Maxwell or Burgers rheology, with or without weaknesses representing extensions of the fault either along strike or to greater depth. If the locked fault is loaded only from the far field without the effects of previous earthquakes, localized deformation occurs only if local mechanical weaknesses below the fault and/or somewhere along strike are introduced. I first show that the effects of far-field loading are rather limited even in the presence of extreme weaknesses. Then I use idealized earthquake cycle models to investigate the effects of past seismic events in a viscoelastic Earth. I demonstrate that, after a phase of fast postseismic deformation just after the earthquake, the localization of interseismic deformation is controlled mainly by the recurrence interval of past earthquakes. Given viscosity, shorter recurrence leads to greater interseismic localization, regardless of the rheological model used. The presence of a low-viscosity deep fault zone does not change this conclusion, although it tends to lessen localization by promoting faster postseismic stress relaxation. Distributed interseismic deformation, although less reported in the literature, is a natural consequence of very long recurrence and in theory should be as common as localized deformation. The apparent propensity of the latter is likely associated with the much greater quantity and better quality of geodetic observations from higher-rate and shorter-recurrence faults. Using viscoelastic earthquake-cycle models, I also explore the role of nearby earthquakes and creeping segments along the same fault. For faults of relatively short recurrence, frequent ruptures of nearby segments, modelled using a migrating rupture sequence with or without temporal clustering, further enhance localization. For faults of very long recurrence, faster near-fault deformation induced by a recent earthquake may give a false impression of localized interseismic deformation.



Strike-slip fault, earthquake cycle, interseismic deformation, recurrence interval, localization, locking depth