Dynamics of a two-fault system with viscoelastic coupling
- Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Bologna, Viale Carlo Berti Pichat 8, 40127 Bologna, Italy
Abstract. A fault system made of two segments or asperities subject to a constant strain rate is considered. The fault is modelled as a discrete dynamical system made of two blocks coupled by a Maxwell spring dashpot element and pulled at constant velocity on a rough plane. The long-term behaviour of the fault is studied by calculating the orbits of the system in the phase space. The model shows the role of viscoelastic relaxation in the Earth's crust in controlling the occurrence times of earthquakes. If a viscoelastic coupling is present, earthquakes are anticipated or delayed with respect to the elastic case. The limit cycles made of two alternate asperity failures, which are observed in the case of purely elastic coupling, are no longer produced. The model is applied to the 1964 Alaska earthquake, which was the effect of the failure of two asperities and for which a remarkable post-seismic relaxation has been observed in the subsequent decades. In such a fault system, viscoelastic coupling of the asperities appears to have a great influence on the occurrence times of earthquakes.