Pore pressure development beneath the décollement at the Nankai subduction zone: Implications for plate boundary fault strength and sediment dewatering

Robert M. Skarbek, Demian Saffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite its importance for plate boundary fault processes, quantitative constraints on pore pressure are rare, especially within fault zones. Here, we combine laboratory permeability measurements from core samples with a model of loading and pore pressure diffusion to investigate pore fluid pressure evolution within underthrust sediment at the Nankai subduction zone. Independent estimates of pore pressure to ∼20 km from the trench, combined with permeability measurements conducted over a wide range of effective stresses and porosities, allow us to reliably simulate pore pressure development to greater depths than in previous studies and to directly quantify pore pressure within the plate boundary fault zone itself, which acts as the upper boundary of the underthrusting section. Our results suggest that the time-averaged excess pore pressure (P*) along the décollement ranges from 1.7-2.1 MPa at the trench to 30.2-35.9 MPa by 40 km landward, corresponding to pore pressure ratios of λb = 0.68-0.77. For friction coefficients of 0.30-0.40, the resulting shear strength along the décollement remains <12 MPa over this region. When noncohesive critical taper theory is applied using these values, the required pore pressure ratios within the wedge are near hydrostatic (λw = 0.41-0.59), implying either that pore pressure throughout the wedge is low or that the fault slips only during transient pulses of elevated pore pressure. In addition, simulated downward migration of minima in effective stress during drainage provides a quantitative explanation for down stepping of the décollement that is consistent with observations at Nankai.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB07401
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Volume114
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 4 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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

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