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Low Coseismic Friction on the Tohoku-Oki Fault Determined from Temperature Measurements

Science  06 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6163, pp. 1214-1217
DOI: 10.1126/science.1243641

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Deep Drilling for Earthquake Clues

The 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake and tsunami were remarkable in many regards, including the rupturing of shallow trench sediments with huge associated slip (see the Perspective by Wang and Kinoshita). The Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project rapid response drilling expedition sought to sample and monitor the fault zone directly through a series of boreholes. Chester et al. (p. 1208) describe the structure and composition of the thin fault zone, which is predominately comprised of weak clay-rich sediments. Using these same fault-zone materials, Ujiie et al. (p. 1211) performed high-velocity frictional experiments to determine the physical controls on the large slip that occurred during the earthquake. Finally, Fulton et al. (p. 1214) measured in situ temperature anomalies across the fault zone for 9 months, establishing a baseline for frictional resistance and stress during and following the earthquake.

Abstract

The frictional resistance on a fault during slip controls earthquake dynamics. Friction dissipates heat during an earthquake; therefore, the fault temperature after an earthquake provides insight into the level of friction. The Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 343 and 343T) installed a borehole temperature observatory 16 months after the March 2011 moment magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake across the fault where slip was ~50 meters near the trench. After 9 months of operation, the complete sensor string was recovered. A 0.31°C temperature anomaly at the plate boundary fault corresponds to 27 megajoules per square meter of dissipated energy during the earthquake. The resulting apparent friction coefficient of 0.08 is considerably smaller than static values for most rocks.

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