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Durham University

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Nielsen, S., Spagnuolo, E., Smith, S., Violay, M., Di Toro, G. & Bistacchi, A. (2016). Scaling in natural and laboratory earthquakes. Geophysical Research Letters 43(4): 1504-1510.

Author(s) from Durham


Laboratory experiments reproducing seismic slip conditions show extreme frictional weakening due to the activation of lubrication processes. Due to a substantial variability in the details of the weakening transient, generalization of experimental results and comparison to seismic observations have not been possible so far. Here we show that during the weakening, shear stress τ is generally well matched by a power law of slip u in the form inline image (with 0.35 < α < 0.6). The resulting fracture energy Gf can be approximated by a power law in some aspects in agreement with the seismological estimates inline image. It appears that Gf and inline image are comparable in the range 0.01 < u < 0.3 m. However, inline image surpasses Gf at larger slips: at u≈10 m, inline image and Gf≈106. Possible interpretations of this misfit involve the complexity of damage and weakening mechanisms within mature fault zone structures.