skip to main content

Title: Acoustic Energy Release During the Laboratory Seismic Cycle: Insights on Laboratory Earthquake Precursors and Prediction

Machine learning can predict the timing and magnitude of laboratory earthquakes using statistics of acoustic emissions. The evolution of acoustic energy is critical for lab earthquake prediction; however, the connections between acoustic energy and fault zone processes leading to failure are poorly understood. Here, we document in detail the temporal evolution of acoustic energy during the laboratory seismic cycle. We report on friction experiments for a range of shearing velocities, normal stresses, and granular particle sizes. Acoustic emission data are recorded continuously throughout shear using broadband piezo‐ceramic sensors. The coseismic acoustic energy release scales directly with stress drop and is consistent with concepts of frictional contact mechanics and time‐dependent fault healing. Experiments conducted with larger grains (10.5 μm) show that the temporal evolution of acoustic energy scales directly with fault slip rate. In particular, the acoustic energy is low when the fault is locked and increases to a maximum during coseismic failure. Data from traditional slide‐hold‐slide friction tests confirm that acoustic energy release is closely linked to fault slip rate. Furthermore, variations in the true contact area of fault zone particles play a key role in the generation of acoustic energy. Our data show that acoustic radiation is related primarily to breaking/sliding of frictional contact junctions, which suggests that machine learning‐based laboratory earthquake prediction derives from frictional weakening processes that begin very early in the seismic cycle and well before macroscopic failure.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Tectonic faults fail through a spectrum of slip modes, ranging from slow aseismic creep to rapid slip during earthquakes. Understanding the seismic radiation emitted during these slip modes is key for advancing earthquake science and earthquake hazard assessment. In this work, we use laboratory friction experiments instrumented with ultrasonic sensors to document the seismic radiation properties of slow and fast laboratory earthquakes. Stick‐slip experiments were conducted at a constant loading rate of 8 μm/s and the normal stress was systematically increased from 7 to 15 MPa. We produced a full spectrum of slip modes by modulating the loading stiffness in tandem with the fault zone normal stress. Acoustic emission data were recorded continuously at 5 MHz. We demonstrate that the full continuum of slip modes radiate measurable high‐frequency energy between 100 and 500 kHz, including the slowest events that have peak fault slip rates <100 μm/s. The peak amplitude of the high‐frequency time‐domain signals scales systematically with fault slip velocity. Stable sliding experiments further support the connection between fault slip rate and high‐frequency radiation. Experiments demonstrate that the origin of the high‐frequency energy is fundamentally linked to changes in fault slip rate, shear strain, and breaking of contact junctions within the fault gouge. Our results suggest that having measurements close to the fault zone may be key for documenting seismic radiation properties and fully understanding the connection between different slip modes.

    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Earthquake prediction is the holy grail of seismology. Many previous studies have searched for robust precursory signals to inform us of imminent earthquakes, the most significant of which are seen in laboratory experiments as temporal changes in pressure and shear wave velocities during the seismic cycle. Similar changes are seen in natural faults and the surrounding structurally complex network of fractures with nested hierarchy of localized deformation, referred to as fault damage zone. However, little is known whether such temporal changes in material properties contains any precursory signals for imminent earthquakes.Conversely, the effect of precursory velocity changes on the seismic cycle is not well understood. By imposing shear wave velocity changes in fault damage zones, we investigate the effects of these precursors on multiple stages of the seismic cycle, including nucleation, coseismic, postseismic, and interseismic stages. We perform 2D fully dynamic earthquake cycle simulations with a fault-parallel damage zone for strike-slip fault systems with antiplane geometry. The fault is governed by rate-state-dependent friction laws, and the fault damage zone material is considered elastic. Our preliminary results show that the temporal onset of shear wave velocity drop causes a reduction in earthquake recurrence intervals over the seismic cycle. Furthermore, a dynamic earthquake rupture within the seismic cycle terminates much faster and abruptly in models with precursory velocity changes. We will also discuss how the precursory velocity changes affect the fault-slip behavior, including fast-slip, slow-slip, and aseismic creep, for different amplitudes of shear wave velocity changes at different compliance contrast of the fault damage zones. Our results highlight the importance of short and long-term monitoring of fault zone structures for better assessment of regional seismic hazard. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    SUMMARY Earthquake ruptures are generally considered to be cracks that propagate as fracture or frictional slip on pre-existing faults. Crack models have been used to describe the spatial distribution of fault offset and the associated static stress changes along a fault, and have implications for friction evolution and the underlying physics of rupture processes. However, field measurements that could help refine idealized crack models are rare. Here, we describe large-scale laboratory earthquake experiments, where all rupture processes were contained within a 3-m long saw-cut granite fault, and we propose an analytical crack model that fits our measurements. Similar to natural earthquakes, laboratory measurements show coseismic slip that gradually tapers near the rupture tips. Measured stress changes show roughly constant stress drop in the centre of the ruptured region, a maximum stress increase near the rupture tips and a smooth transition in between, in a region we describe as the earthquake arrest zone. The proposed model generalizes the widely used elliptical crack model by adding gradually tapered slip at the ends of the rupture. Different from the cohesive zone described by fracture mechanics, we propose that the transition in stress changes and the corresponding linear taper observed in the earthquake arrest zone are the result of rupture termination conditions primarily controlled by the initial stress distribution. It is the heterogeneous initial stress distribution that controls the arrest of laboratory earthquakes, and the features of static stress changes. We also performed dynamic rupture simulations that confirm how arrest conditions can affect slip taper and static stress changes. If applicable to larger natural earthquakes, this distinction between an earthquake arrest zone (that depends on stress conditions) and a cohesive zone (that depends primarily on strength evolution) has important implications for how seismic observations of earthquake fracture energy should be interpreted. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Machine learning (ML) techniques have become increasingly important in seismology and earthquake science. Lab‐based studies have used acoustic emission data to predict time‐to‐failure and stress state, and in a few cases, the same approach has been used for field data. However, the underlying physical mechanisms that allow lab earthquake prediction and seismic forecasting remain poorly resolved. Here, we address this knowledge gap by coupling active‐source seismic data, which probe asperity‐scale processes, with ML methods. We show that elastic waves passing through the lab fault zone contain information that can predict the full spectrum of labquakes from slow slip instabilities to highly aperiodic events. The ML methods utilize systematic changes in P‐wave amplitude and velocity to accurately predict the timing and shear stress during labquakes. The ML predictions improve in accuracy closer to fault failure, demonstrating that the predictive power of the ultrasonic signals improves as the fault approaches failure. Our results demonstrate that the relationship between the ultrasonic parameters and fault slip rate, and in turn, the systematically evolving real area of contact and asperity stiffness allow the gradient boosting algorithm to “learn” about the state of the fault and its proximity to failure. Broadly, our results demonstrate the utility of physics‐informed ML in forecasting the imminence of fault slip at the laboratory scale, which may have important implications for earthquake mechanics in nature.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The empirical constitutive modeling framework of rate‐ and state‐dependent friction (RSF) is commonly used to describe the time‐dependent frictional response of fault gouge to perturbations from steady sliding. In a previous study (Ferdowsi & Rubin, 2020), we found that a granular‐physics‐based model of a fault shear zone, with time‐independent properties at the contact scale, reproduces the phenomenology of laboratory rock and gouge friction experiments in velocity‐step and slide‐hold (SH) protocols. A few slide‐hold‐slide (SHS) simulations further suggested that the granular model might outperform current empirical RSF laws in describing laboratory data. Here, we explore the behavior of the same Discrete Element Method (DEM) model in SH and SHS protocols over a wide range of sliding velocities, hold durations, and system stiffnesses, and provide additional support for this view. We find that, similar to laboratory data, the rate of stress decay during SH simulations is in general agreement with the “Slip law” version of the RSF equations, using parameter values determined independently from velocity step tests. During reslides following long hold times, the model, similar to lab data, produces a nearly constant rate of frictional healing with log hold time, with that rate being in the range of ∼0.5 to 1 times the RSF “state evolution” parameterb. We also find that, as in laboratory experiments, the granular layer undergoes log‐time compaction during holds. This is consistent with the traditional understanding of state evolution under the Aging law, even though the associated stress decay is similar to that predicted by the Slip and not the Aging law.

    more » « less