Crustal heterogeneities and complexities of fault processes

Ferrari, Claudio (2009) Crustal heterogeneities and complexities of fault processes, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Geofisica, 21 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/1661.
Documenti full-text disponibili:
Documento PDF (English) - Richiede un lettore di PDF come Xpdf o Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (4MB) | Anteprima


In this work we study the relation between crustal heterogeneities and complexities in fault processes. The first kind of heterogeneity considered involves the concept of asperity. The presence of an asperity in the hypocentral region of the M = 6.5 earthquake of June 17-th, 2000 in the South Iceland Seismic Zone was invoked to explain the change of seismicity pattern before and after the mainshock: in particular, the spatial distribution of foreshock epicentres trends NW while the strike of the main fault is N 7◦ E and aftershocks trend accordingly; the foreshock depths were typically deeper than average aftershock depths. A model is devised which simulates the presence of an asperity in terms of a spherical inclusion, within a softer elastic medium in a transform domain with a deviatoric stress field imposed at remote distances (compressive NE − SW, tensile NW − SE). An isotropic compressive stress component is induced outside the asperity, in the direction of the compressive stress axis, and a tensile component in the direction of the tensile axis; as a consequence, fluid flow is inhibited in the compressive quadrants while it is favoured in tensile quadrants. Within the asperity the isotropic stress vanishes but the deviatoric stress increases substantially, without any significant change in the principal stress directions. Hydrofracture processes in the tensile quadrants and viscoelastic relaxation at depth may contribute to lower the effective rigidity of the medium surrounding the asperity. According to the present model, foreshocks may be interpreted as induced, close to the brittle-ductile transition, by high pressure fluids migrating upwards within the tensile quadrants; this process increases the deviatoric stress within the asperity which eventually fails, becoming the hypocenter of the mainshock, on the optimally oriented fault plane. In the second part of our work we study the complexities induced in fault processes by the layered structure of the crust. In the first model proposed we study the case in which fault bending takes place in a shallow layer. The problem can be addressed in terms of a deep vertical planar crack, interacting with a shallower inclined planar crack. An asymptotic study of the singular behaviour of the dislocation density at the interface reveals that the density distribution has an algebraic singularity at the interface of degree ω between -1 and 0, depending on the dip angle of the upper crack section and on the rigidity contrast between the two media. From the welded boundary condition at the interface between medium 1 and 2, a stress drop discontinuity condition is obtained which can be fulfilled if the stress drop in the upper medium is lower than required for a planar trough-going surface: as a corollary, a vertically dipping strike-slip fault at depth may cross the interface with a sedimentary layer, provided that the shallower section is suitably inclined (fault "refraction"); this results has important implications for our understanding of the complexity of the fault system in the SISZ; in particular, we may understand the observed offset of secondary surface fractures with respect to the strike direction of the seismic fault. The results of this model also suggest that further fractures can develop in the opposite quadrant and so a second model describing fault branching in the upper layer is proposed. As the previous model, this model can be applied only when the stress drop in the shallow layer is lower than the value prescribed for a vertical planar crack surface. Alternative solutions must be considered if the stress drop in the upper layer is higher than in the other layer, which may be the case when anelastic processes relax deviatoric stress in layer 2. In such a case one through-going crack cannot fulfil the welded boundary conditions and unwelding of the interface may take place. We have solved this problem within the theory of fracture mechanics, employing the boundary element method. The fault terminates against the interface in a T-shaped configuration, whose segments interact among each other: the lateral extent of the unwelded surface can be computed in terms of the main fault parameters and the stress field resulting in the shallower layer can be modelled. A wide stripe of high and nearly uniform shear stress develops above the unwelded surface, whose width is controlled by the lateral extension of unwelding. Secondary shear fractures may then open within this stripe, according to the Coulomb failure criterion, and the depth of open fractures opening in mixed mode may be computed and compared with the well studied fault complexities observed in the field. In absence of the T-shaped decollement structure, stress concentration above the seismic fault would be difficult to reconcile with observations, being much higher and narrower.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Ferrari, Claudio
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze matematiche, fisiche ed astronomiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Data di discussione
5 Giugno 2009

Altri metadati

Statistica sui download

Gestione del documento: Visualizza la tesi