31 Aug '12, 8pm

Expanding “Hot Spots” May Trigger Earthquake Fault Slips: Scripps researchers identify complex mechanisms behind...

Expanding “Hot Spots” May Trigger Earthquake Fault Slips: Scripps researchers identify complex mechanisms behind...

Earthquake fault failure is complex. The stressed rock weakens and leaps in a multistage pattern: the rock’s shear strength drops suddenly, recovers, and then drops again. The last stage is already fairly well understood. To over-simplify: pressure, friction, and ambient heat melt the rock, and the resulting viscous mess lubricates the fault. Until now, though, geologists haven’t been quite sure how the fault loses its grip the first time. In the 30 August Nature , two Scripps Institute of Oceanography geophysicists attribute the first slip to small, localized “hot spots” of expanding material that force the fault faces apart. This reduces the pressure on the rest of the rock face, reducing the friction between them and lowering the resistance to slip. Kevin M. Brown and Yuri Fialko reconstructed an industrial lathe to reproduce geological pressures and slip speeds in an 8...

Full article: http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/at-work/test-and-measu...

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