Can compliant fault zones be used to measure absolute stresses in the upper crust?

Hearn, EH, Fialko Y.  2009.  Can compliant fault zones be used to measure absolute stresses in the upper crust? Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 114

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california shear zone, damage, elastic-moduli, hector mine earthquake, landers fault, rupture zone, san-andreas fault, slip, trapping structure, waves


Geodetic and seismic observations reveal long-lived zones with reduced elastic moduli along active crustal faults. These fault zones localize strain from nearby earthquakes, consistent with the response of a compliant, elastic layer. Fault zone trapped wave studies documented a small reduction in P and S wave velocities along the Johnson Valley Fault caused by the 1999 Hector Mine earthquake. This reduction presumably perturbed a permanent compliant structure associated with the fault. The inferred changes in the fault zone compliance may produce a measurable deformation in response to background (tectonic) stresses. This deformation should have the same sense as the background stress, rather than the coseismic stress change. Here we investigate how the observed deformation of compliant zones in the Mojave Desert can be used to constrain the fault zone structure and stresses in the upper crust. We find that gravitational contraction of the coseismically softened zones should cause centimeters of coseismic subsidence of both the compliant zones and the surrounding region, unless the compliant fault zones are shallow and narrow, or essentially incompressible. We prefer the latter interpretation because profiles of line of sight displacements across compliant zones cannot be fit by a narrow, shallow compliant zone. Strain of the Camp Rock and Pinto Mountain fault zones during the Hector Mine and Landers earthquakes suggests that background deviatoric stresses are broadly consistent with Mohr-Coulomb theory in the Mojave upper crust (with mu >= 0.7). Large uncertainties in Mojave compliant zone properties and geometry preclude more precise estimates of crustal stresses in this region. With improved imaging of the geometry and elastic properties of compliant zones, and with precise measurements of their strain in response to future earthquakes, the modeling approach we describe here may eventually provide robust estimates of absolute crustal stress.






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