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    Solid earth sciences

    Variations in precursory slip behavior resulting from frictional heterogeneity

    Yabe S, Ide S

    Rate- and state-dependent friction law, frictional heterogeneity, foreshock, inverse Omori law, dynamic nucleation

    The precursory slip and the mainshock in our numerical simulations. The horizontal axis denotes the location on the fault, where #1 is at its edge, and #35 is at its center. The figure shows the left half of the bilaterally symmetric fault. The vertical axis denotes the time. The color shows slip velocity on the fault. Red color shows seismic slip velocity.

    Precursory seismicity is often observed before a large earthquake. Small foreshocks occur within the mainshock rupture area, which cannot be explained by simple models that assume homogeneous friction on the entire fault. In this study, we consider a frictionally heterogeneous fault model, motivated by recent observations of geologic faults and slow earthquakes. This study investigates slip behavior on faults governed by a rate- and state-dependent friction law. We consider a finite linear fault consisting of alternating velocity-weakening zones (VWZs) and velocity-strengthening zones (VSZs). Our model generates precursory slip before the mainshock that ruptures the entire fault, though the activity level of the precursory slip depends on the frictional parameters. We investigate variations in precursory slip behavior, which we characterize quantitatively by the background slip acceleration and seismic radiation, using parameter studies of the a value of the VWZs and VSZs. The results reveal that precursory slip is very small when VWZs are strongly locked and when VSZs consume only a small amount of energy during seismic slip. Precursory slip is significant around the stability boundary of the fault. Furthermore, the type of precursory slip (seismic or aseismic) is controlled by the amplitude of the frictional heterogeneity. Active foreshocks obeying an inverse Omori law associated with background aseismic slip can be interpreted as the nucleation of the mainshock, though this is different from classical nucleation because the monotonic increase in slip velocity is significantly perturbed by the occurrence of foreshocks. Frictional heterogeneity also affects interseismic slip behavior. Modeled variations in precursory slip behavior and interseismic activity can qualitatively explain the along-dip and among-subduction-zone variations in real seismicity patterns. Because even simple frictional heterogeneity produces complex seismicity, it is necessary to further investigate the slip behavior of frictionally heterogeneous faults, which could be utilized for modeling various real seismicity patterns.