Estimating Fault Friction From Seismic Signals in the Laboratory

Bertrand Rouet-Leduc, Claudia Hulbert, David C. Bolton, Christopher X. Ren, Jacques Riviere, Chris Marone, Robert A. Guyer, Paul A. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Nearly all aspects of earthquake rupture are controlled by the friction along the fault that progressively increases with tectonic forcing but in general cannot be directly measured. We show that fault friction can be determined at any time, from the continuous seismic signal. In a classic laboratory experiment of repeating earthquakes, we find that the seismic signal follows a specific pattern with respect to fault friction, allowing us to determine the fault's position within its failure cycle. Using machine learning, we show that instantaneous statistical characteristics of the seismic signal are a fingerprint of the fault zone shear stress and frictional state. Further analysis of this fingerprint leads to a simple equation of state quantitatively relating the seismic signal power and the friction on the fault. These results show that fault zone frictional characteristics and the state of stress in the surroundings of the fault can be inferred from seismic waves, at least in the laboratory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1321-1329
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 16 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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