loading page

Fault-valve instability: A mechanism for slow slip events
  • So Ozawa,
  • Yuyun Yang,
  • Eric M Dunham
So Ozawa
Stanford University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Yuyun Yang
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Author Profile
Eric M Dunham
Stanford University
Author Profile


Geophysical and geological studies provide evidence for cyclic changes in fault-zone pore fluid pressure that synchronize with or at least modulate seismic cycles. A hypothesized mechanism for this behavior is fault valving arising from temporal changes in fault zone permeability. In our study, we investigate the coupled dynamics of rate and state friction, along-fault fluid flow, and permeability evolution. Permeability decreases with time, and increases with slip. Linear stability analysis shows that steady slip with constant fluid flow along the fault zone is unstable to perturbations, even for velocity-strengthening friction with no state evolution, if the background flow is sufficiently high. We refer to this instability as the “fault valve instability.’ The propagation speed of the fluid pressure and slip pulse can be much higher than expected from linear pressure diffusion, and it scales with permeability enhancement. Two-dimensional simulations with spatially uniform properties show that the fault valve instability develops into slow slip events, in the form of aseismic slip pulses that propagate in the direction of fluid flow. We also perform earthquake sequence simulations on a megathrust fault, taking into account depth-dependent frictional and hydrological properties. The simulations produce quasi-periodic slow slip events from the fault valve instability below the seismogenic zone, in both velocity-weakening and velocity-strengthening regions, for a wide range of effective normal stresses. A separation of slow slip events from the seismogenic zone, which is observed in some subduction zones, is reproduced when assuming a fluid sink around the mantle wedge corner.
26 Mar 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
12 Apr 2024Published in ESS Open Archive