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Natural hazards events such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions involve activation of coupled thermo-hydro-chemo-mechanical processes in rocks. A conference sponsored by the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV), the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), and Exxon Mobil was held in Erice, Italy, to explore how rock physics experiments and models can help scientists understand natural hazards mechanisms, and to foster cross- disciplinary collaborations.

The largest part of the conference was devoted to questions related to rock failure and earthquake source mechanisms. Several presentations showed that despite the huge reduction in scale, laboratory experiments sometimes display phenomena strikingly similar to field observations. For example, new very high slip-rate friction experiments show significantly higher fault weakening than previously observed at the laboratory scale. These exploratory experiments may provide new insights into the mutual interactions of frictional shear failure, heat production, and fluid or melt lubrication. Another study revealed that tremor-like events are generated in laboratory samples during melt propagation in cracks or dehydration of hydrated minerals, providing physical constraints to the open debate on the origin of volcanic and non-volcanic deep tremors.