Seismogenic Potential of a Gouge-filled Fault and the Criterion for Its Slip Stability: Constraints From a Microphysical Model
Physical constraints for the parameters of the rate-and-state friction (RSF) laws have been mostly lacking. We presented such constraints based on a microphysical model and demonstrated the general applicability to granular fault gouges deforming under hydrothermal conditions in a companion paper. In this paper, we examine the transition velocities for contrasting frictional behavior (i.e., strengthening to weakening and vice versa) and the slip stability of the model. The model predicts a steady state friction coefficient that increases with slip rate at very low and high slip rates and decreases in between. This allows the transition velocities to be theoretically obtained and the unstable slip regime (Vs→w < V < Vw→s) to be defined. In a spring-slider configuration, linear perturbation analysis provides analytical expressions of the critical stiffness (Kc) below which unstable slip occurs and of the critical recurrence wavelength (Wc) and static stress drop (∆μs) associated with self-sustained oscillations or stick slips. Numerical implementation of the model predicts frictional behavior that exhibits consecutive transitions from stable sliding, via periodic oscillations, to unstable stick slips with decreasing elastic stiffness or loading rate, and gives Kc, Wc, ∆μs, Vs→w, and Vw→s values that are consistent with the analytical predictions. General scaling relations of these parameters given by the model are consistent with previous interpretations in the context of RSF laws and agree well with previous experiments, testifying to high validity. From these physics-based expressions that allow a more reliable extrapolation to natural conditions, we discuss the seismological implications for natural faults and present topics for future work.