Coulomb constitutive laws for friction: Contrasts in frictional behavior for distributed and localized shear

Chris Marone, B. E. Hobbs, A. Ord

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59 Scopus citations


We describe slip-rate dependent friction laws based on the Coulomb failure criteria. Frictional rate dependence is attributed to a rate dependence of cohesion c and friction angle φ{symbol}. We show that differences in the stress states developed during sliding result in different Coulomb friction laws for distributed shear within a thick gouge layer versus localized shear within a narrow shear band or between bare rock surfaces. For shear within gouge, shear strength is given by τ=c cos φ + σn sin φ, whereas for shear between bare rock surfaces the shear strength is τ=c cos φ + σn tan φ, where τ and σn are shear and normal stress, respectively. In the context of rate-dependent Coulomb friction laws, these differences mean that for a given material and rate dependence of the Coulomb parameters, pervasive shear may exhibit velocity strengthening frictional behavior while localized shear exhibits velocity weakening behavior. We derive from experimental data the slip-rate dependence and evolution of c and φ{symbol} for distributed and localized shear. The data show a positive rate dependence for distributed shear and a negative rate dependence for localized shear, indicating that the rate dependence of c and φ{symbol} are not the same for distributed and localized shear, even after accounting for differences in stress state. Our analysis is consistent with the well-known association of instability with shear localization in simulated fault gouge and the observation that bare rock surfaces exhibit predominantly velocity weakening frictional behavior whereas simulated fault gouge exhibits velocity strengthening followed by a transition to velocity weakening with increasing displacement. Natural faults also exhibit displacement dependent frictional behavior and thus the results may prove useful in understanding the seismic evolution of faulting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-214
Number of pages20
JournalPure and Applied Geophysics PAGEOPH
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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