DOI: 10.1029/2023jb028411 ISSN: 2169-9313

Intermittent Criticality Multi‐Scale Processes Leading to Large Slip Events on Rough Laboratory Faults

Grzegorz Kwiatek, Patricia Martínez‐Garzón, Thomas Goebel, Marco Bohnhoff, Yehuda Ben‐Zion, Georg Dresen
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics


We discuss data of three laboratory stick‐slip experiments on Westerly Granite samples performed at elevated confining pressure and constant displacement rate on rough fracture surfaces. The experiments produced complex slip patterns including fast and slow ruptures with large and small fault slips, as well as failure events on the fault surface producing acoustic emission bursts without externally‐detectable stress drop. Preparatory processes leading to large slips were tracked with an ensemble of ten seismo‐mechanical and statistical parameters characterizing local and global damage and stress evolution, localization and clustering processes, as well as event interactions. We decompose complex spatio‐temporal trends in the lab‐quake characteristics and identify persistent effects of evolving fault roughness and damage at different length scales, and local stress evolution approaching large events. The observed trends highlight labquake localization processes on different spatial and temporal scales. The preparatory process of large slip events includes smaller events marked by confined bursts of acoustic emission activity that collectively prepare the fault surface for a system‐wide failure by conditioning the large‐scale stress field. Our results are consistent overall with an evolving process of intermittent criticality leading to large failure events, and may contribute to improved forecasting of large natural earthquakes.

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