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Keywords:

  • faults;
  • subduction zone;
  • Nankai Trough;
  • earthquakes;
  • slow slip;
  • accretionary prism

Accretionary complexes host a variety of fault zones that accommodate plate convergence and internal prism deformation, including the décollement, imbricate thrusts, and out-of-sequence thrusts or splays. These faults, especially the décollement and major splay faults, are considered to be candidates for hosting slow slip events and large magnitude earthquakes, but it is not clear what modes of slip should be expected at shallow levels or how they are related to fault rock frictional properties. We conducted laboratory experiments to measure the frictional properties of fault and wall rock from three distinct fault zone systems sampled during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 316 and Ocean Drilling Program Leg 190 to the Nankai Trough offshore Japan. These are (1) a major out-of-sequence thrust fault, termed the “megasplay” (Site C0004), (2) the frontal thrust zone, a region of diffuse thrust faulting near the trench (Site C0007), and (3) the décollement zone sampled 2 km from the trench (Site 1174). At 25 MPa effective normal stress, at slip rates of 0.03–100 μm/s, and in the presence of brine as a pore fluid, we observe low friction (μ ≤ 0.46) for all of the materials we tested; however, the weakest samples (μ ≤ 0.30) are from the décollement zone. Material from the megasplay fault is significantly weaker than the surrounding wall rocks, a pattern not observed in the frontal thrust and décollement. All samples exhibit primarily velocity-strengthening frictional behavior, suggesting that earthquakes should not nucleate at these depths. A consistent minimum in the friction rate parameter a-b at sliding velocities of ∼1–3 μm/s (∼0.1–0.3 m/d) is observed at all three sites, suggesting that these shallow fault zones may be likely to host slow slip events.