Evolution of elastic wave speed during shear-induced damage and healing within laboratory fault zones

Bryan M. Kaproth, Chris Marone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Earthquake faults fail and restrengthen repeatedly during the seismic cycle. Faults restrengthen via a set of processes known collectively as fault healing, which is well documented in the laboratory but less well understood in tectonic fault zones. Recent observations of fault zone wave speed following earthquakes suggest opportunities to connect laboratory and field observations of fault healing. However, existing laboratory data lack detail necessary to identify specific processes linking elastic wave speed to fault damage and healing. Here we document changes in elastic properties during laboratory seismic cycles, simulated via periods of nonshear and quasistatic fault slip. Experiments were conducted on brine-saturated halite under conditions favoring pressure solution, analogous to healing processes within and at the base of the seismogenic zone. We find that elastic wave speed (V) and amplitude (A) correlate with porosity. For each percent of porosity lost during compaction, VP increases by ∼3%, VS by ∼2%, AP by ∼10%, and AS by ∼7%. Moreover, V and A decrease with granular dilation during fault slip. With increasing shear strain, fabric formation dominates the ultrasonic signals. We find that fault strength depends on fault porosity, making VP and VS potential proxies for fault strength evolution. Our data show that a 1% change in VP or V S results in a friction increase of 0.01 or 0.02, respectively. Within natural fault zones, advances in monitoring elastic wave speed may provide critical information on the evolution of fault strength and seismic hazard throughout the seismic cycle. Key Points Elastic wave speed and amplitude vary systematically during the seismic cycle Porosity and shear fabric influence fault zone elastic wave speeds Sound velocity provides an important proxy for fault strength evolution

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4821-4840
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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