The effect of shear strain and shear localization on fault healing

Corentin Noël, Carolina Giorgetti, Cristiano Collettini, Chris Marone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The seismic cycle of repeated earthquake failure requires that faults regain frictional strength during the interseismic phase, when the fault is locked or undergoing quasi-static creep. Fault healing plays a central role in determining earthquake stress drop, recurrence interval, elastic radiation frequency and other source parameters. In particular, the longer a fault remains quasi-stationary, the stronger it becomes and the larger the potential stress drop can be for the next event. Here, we address the role of shear strain and strain localization on fault healing and healing rate. We performed slide-hold-slide friction experiments on quartz gouge in the double-direct shear configuration for shear strain up to 25 and hold times from 10 to 1000 s. The results show that both healing and healing rate increase nonlinearly with increasing shear strain. Frictional healing scales with volumetric strain within the laboratory fault zone. Using the volumetric strain upon reshear as a proxy for strain localization, we demonstrate that the capacity of a fault to heal is directly proportional to shear bandwidth and degree of strain localization. The more the deformation is localized, the higher are the healing and healing rate, and thus, the fault strength. Our data provide a framework for understanding variations in fault strength over the seismic cycle and the role of brecciation and strain localization on spatiotemporal variations in fault strength.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1206-1215
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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