Nonlinear dynamical triggering of slow slip on simulated earthquake faults with implications to Earth

P. A. Johnson, B. Carpenter, M. Knuth, B. M. Kaproth, P. Y. Le Bas, E. G. Daub, C. Marone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Among the most fascinating, recent discoveries in seismology are the phenomena of dynamically triggered fault slip, including earthquakes, tremor, slow and silent slipduring which little seismic energy is radiatedand low frequency earthquakes. Dynamic triggering refers to the initiation of fault slip by a transient deformation perturbation, most often in the form of passing seismic waves. Determining the frictional constitutive laws and the physical mechanism(s) governing triggered faulting is extremely challenging because slip nucleation depths for tectonic faults cannot be probed directly. Of the spectrum of slip behaviors, triggered slow slip is particularly difficult to characterize due to the absence of significant seismic radiation, implying mechanical conditions different from triggered earthquakes. Slow slip is often accompanied by nonvolcanic tremor in close spatial and temporal proximity. The causal relationship between them has implications for the properties and physics governing the fault slip behavior. We are characterizing the physical controls of triggered slow slip via laboratory experiments using sheared granular media to simulate fault gouge. Granular rock and glass beads are sheared under constant normal stress, while subjected to transient stress perturbation by acoustic waves. Here we describe experiments with glass beads, showing that slow and silent slip can be dynamically triggered on laboratory faults by ultrasonic waves. The laboratory triggering may take place during stable sliding (constant friction and slip velocity) and/or early in the slip cycle, during unstable sliding (stick-slip). Experimental evidence indicates that the nonlinear-dynamical response of the gouge material is responsible for the triggered slow slip.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB04310
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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