The influence of Preslip Sealing on the Permeability Evolution of Fractures and Faults

Kyungjae Im, Derek Elsworth, Yi Fang

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63 Scopus citations


The evolution of permeability on fractures and faults during the full earthquake cycle is shown to be sensitive to sealing during the repose phase. We explore the combined effect of static loading followed by fracture reactivation on permeability evolution via slide-hold-slide experiments. During the hold periods, permeability exhibits a slow but continuous reduction. The permeability decay is consistent with power law compaction of the aperture coupled with cubic law flow. With increasing hold periods, permeability evolves following reactivation from net reduction to net increase with the magnitude of the permeability change dependent on the hold period. This implies that the tight interlocking of asperities during interseismic repose primes the fault for permeability enhancement following reactivation. The inferred mechanism is via shear dilation with the probable involvement of unclogging. This result identifies that preslip sealing during repose is an essential component in the cyclic permeability evolution throughout the seismic cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-175
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 16 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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