Velocity-weakening behavior of plagioclase and pyroxene gouges and stabilizing effect of small amounts of quartz under hydrothermal conditions


Corresponding author: C. He, State Key Laboratory of Earthquake Dynamics, Institute of Geology, China Earthquake Administration, Jia #1, Huayanli, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100029, China. (


[1] We investigated properties of frictional sliding of plagioclase, pyroxene, and their mixture gouges with a small amount of hornblende, biotite, and quartz as accessory minerals, under hydrothermal conditions with an effective normal stress of 200 MPa, pore pressure of 30 MPa, and temperatures from 100°C to 600°C. Axial loading rate was stepped between 0.001 and 0.0001 mm/s to acquire the rate dependence. Both plagioclase and pyroxene gouges showed velocity-weakening behavior in the whole temperature range except the velocity-strengthening behavior of pyroxene at 200°C. For temperatures above 400°C, both plagioclase and pyroxene gouges showed oscillatory slips, as a result of small dc values of 3–4 µm which make the critical stiffness rise remarkably and approach the system stiffness. Above 300°C, the direct effect of plagioclase shows an increasing trend with temperature, indicating control of the deformation process by thermally activated mechanisms. As the difference of a and b values here are only 20% at most, this trend also applies to the evolution effect. Our analytical derivation based on the theory of pressure solution shows a log-linear contact area growth with time that corresponds to an evolution effect, and estimations based on this encompass the plagioclase data, though the identification of actual mechanisms is not easy. Finally, it is found that a little quartz (3–5%) added to the plagioclase (60–62%)-pyroxene (35%) mixture has a strong stabilizing effect, leading to a transition from velocity weakening to velocity strengthening. These results may help constrain the depth range of seismic slips on deep faults in the lower crust of gabbroic composition.