Scaling of the shear rupture process from nucleation to dynamic propagation: Implications of geometric irregularity of the rupturing surfaces


  • Mitiyasu Ohnaka,

  • Lin-feng Shen


A series of systematic, high-resolution laboratory experiments have been performed on the nucleation of propagating slip failure on preexisting faults having different surface roughnesses to demonstrate how the size scale and duration of shear rupture nucleation are affected by geometric irregularity of the rupturing surfaces. On the basis of the experimental results it has been discussed theoretically how consistently scale-dependent physical quantities inherent in shear rupture are scaled. The experiments led to conclusive results that the nucleation process consists of two phases (phase I, an initial, quasi-static phase, and phase II, a subsequent accelerating phase) and that the nucleation process is greatly affected by geometric irregularities on the rupturing surfaces. In phase I the rupture grows at a slow, steady speed which is independent of the rupture growth length L. In contrast, during phase II the rupture develops at accelerating speeds V, which increase with an increase in L, obeying a power law V/VS = α(Lc)n, where VS is the shear wave velocity, λc is the characteristic length representing the geometric irregularity of the fault surfaces, and α and n are constants (α = 8.87 × 10−29 and n = 7.31). Scale dependency of scale-dependent physical quantities, including the nucleation zone size and its duration, is commonly ascribed to scale dependency of the slip-dependent constitutive law parameter Dc, which is in turn governed by λc. It has been discussed that a unified comprehension can be provided for shear rupture of any size scale if the constitutive law for shear rupture is formulated as a slip-dependent law.