Slip Sequences in Laboratory Experiments Resulting from Inhomogeneous Shear as Analogs of Earthquakes Associated with a Fault Edge

Shmuel M. Rubinstein, Itay Barel, Ze'ev Reches, Oleg M. Braun, Michael Urbakh, Jay Fineberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Faults are intrinsically heterogeneous with common occurrences of jogs, edges and steps. We therefore explore experimentally and theoretically how fault edges may affect earthquake and slip dynamics. In the presented experiments and accompanying theoretical model, shear loads are applied to the edge of one of two flat blocks in frictional contact that form a fault analog. We show that slip occurs via a sequence of rapid rupture events that initiate from the loading edge and are arrested after propagating a finite distance. Each successive event extends the slip size, transfers the applied shear across the block, and causes progressively larger changes of the contact area along the contact surface. Resulting from this sequence of events, a hard asperity is dynamically formed near the loaded edge. The contact area beyond this asperity is largely reduced. These sequences of rapid events culminate in slow slip events that precede a major, unarrested slip event along the entire contact surface. We suggest that the 1998 M5. 0 Sendai and 1995 off-Etorofu earthquake sequences may correspond to this scenario. Our work demonstrates, qualitatively, how the simplest deviation from uniform shear loading may significantly affect both earthquake nucleation processes and how fault complexity develops.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2151-2166
Number of pages16
JournalPure and Applied Geophysics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
S. M. R. and J. F. acknowledge the support of grant no. 2006288 awarded by the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation. This work, as part of the ESF EUROCORES programme FANAS, was supported by the Israel Science Foundation. J. F. acknowledges the support of the Max Born chair of Natural Philosophy. Z. R. received support from NSF Continental Dynamics grant No. 0409605 (NELSAM). M.U. acknowledges the support of the DIP grant.


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