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Keywords:

  • Very-low-frequency earthquakes;
  • Accretionary prism;
  • Subduction zone;
  • Frictional velocity dependence

Abstract

[1] Very-low-frequency earthquakes (VLFE) occur within accretionary prisms and near subduction plate boundaries at slip rates of 0.05–2 mm/s. However, the geological and frictional aspects of VLFE remain poorly understood. The thrusts in the Shimanto accretionary complex exhumed from source depths of VLFE are composed of quartz-rich fault rocks with or without clay foliations. We examined the frictional velocity dependence of thrust materials. At slip rates of 0.0028–0.28 mm/s, the powder sample from non-foliated fault rock shows velocity-weakening behavior, while that from foliated fault rock exhibits velocity-strengthening behavior. Both samples show velocity-strengthening behavior at slip rates of 0.28–2.8 mm/s. Microstructural analysis reveals that the velocity-weakening sample shows a shear localization, while the velocity-strengthening sample is marked by clay foliations oblique and parallel to shear zone boundaries. Our results imply that frictional instability generates along quartz-rich fault rock but slip becomes stable at higher slip rates, regardless of mineral composition. This is favorable for the occurrence of VLFE in subduction zones.