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  1. Abstract

    The spatial organization of deformation may provide key information about the timing of catastrophic failure in the brittle regime. In an ideal homogenous system, deformation may continually localize toward macroscopic failure, and so increasing localization unambiguously signals approaching failure. However, recent analyses demonstrate that deformation, including low‐magnitude seismicity, and fractures and strain in triaxial compression experiments, experience temporary phases of delocalization superposed on an overall trend of localization toward large failure events. To constrain the conditions that promote delocalization, we perform a series of X‐ray tomography experiments at varying confining pressures (5–20 MPa) and fluid pressures (0–10 MPa) on Westerly granite cores with varying amounts of preexisting damage. We track the spatial distribution of the strain events with the highest magnitudes of the population within a given time step. The results show that larger confining pressure promotes more dilation, and promotes greater localization of the high strain events approaching macroscopic failure. In contrast, greater amounts of preexisting damage promote delocalization. Importantly, the dilative strain experiences more systematic localization than the shear strain, and so may provide more reliable information about the timing of catastrophic failure than the shear strain.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. The continuum of behavior that emerges during fracturenetwork development in crystalline rock may be categorized into threeend-member modes: fracture nucleation, isolated fracture propagation, andfracture coalescence. These different modes of fracture growth producefracture networks with distinctive geometric attributes, such as clusteringand connectivity, that exert important controls on permeability and theextent of fluid–rock interactions. To track how these modes of fracturedevelopment vary in dominance throughout loading toward failure and thushow the geometric attributes of fracture networks may vary under theseconditions, we perform in situ X-ray tomography triaxial compressionexperiments on low-porosity crystalline rock (monzonite) under upper-crustalstress conditions. To examine the influence of pore fluid on the varyingdominance of the three modes of growth, we perform two experiments undernominally dry conditions and one under water-saturated conditions with 5 MPa ofpore fluid pressure. We impose a confining pressure of 20–35 MPa and thenincrease the differential stress in steps until the rock failsmacroscopically. After each stress step of 1–5 MPa we acquire athree-dimensional (3D) X-ray adsorption coefficient field from which weextract the 3D fracture network. We develop a novel method of trackingindividual fractures between subsequent tomographic scans that identifieswhether fractures grow from the coalescence and linkage of several fracturesor from the propagation of a single fracture. Throughout loading in all ofthe experiments, the volume of preexisting fractures is larger than that ofnucleating fractures, indicating that the growth of preexisting fracturesdominates the nucleation of new fractures. Throughout loading until close tomacroscopic failure in all of the experiments, the volume of coalescingfractures is smaller than the volume of propagating fractures, indicatingthat fracture propagation dominates coalescence. Immediately precedingfailure, however, the volume of coalescing fractures is at least double thevolume of propagating fractures in the experiments performed at nominallydry conditions. In the water-saturated sample, in contrast, although thevolume of coalescing fractures increases during the stage preceding failure,the volume of propagating fractures remains dominant. The influence ofstress corrosion cracking associated with hydration reactions at fracturetips and/or dilatant hardening may explain the observed difference infracture development under dry and water-saturated conditions. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Abstract. Tracking the evolution of the deformational energy budget within accretionary systems provides insight into the driving mechanisms that control fault development. To quantify the impact of these mechanisms on overall system efficiency, we estimate energy budget components as the first thrust fault pair develops in dry-sand accretion experiments. We track energy budget components in experiments that include and exclude a basal layer of glass beads in order to investigate the influence of detachment strength on work partitioning. We use the measurements of normal force exerted on the backwall to estimate external work, and measurements of strain observed on the sides of the sand packs to estimate the internal work, frictional work and work against gravity done within increments of each experiment. Thrust fault development reduces the incremental external work and incremental internal work, and increases the incremental frictional work and incremental gravitational work. The faults that develop within higher-friction detachment experiments produce greater frictional work than the faults in experiments with glass bead detachments because the slip distribution along the detachments remains the same, while the effective friction coefficient of the detachment differs between the experiments. The imbalance of the cumulative work budget suggests that additional deformational processes that are not fully captured in our measurements of the energy budget, such as acoustic energy, consume work within the deforming wedge.

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