Mechanics of near-surface fault slip and distributed deformation

Johanna Nevitt, USGS
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The physics governing near-surface fault slip and deformation are largely unknown, introducing significant uncertainty into seismic hazard models. Here we combine near-field measurements of surface deformation from the 2014 M 6.0 South Napa earthquake with high-resolution seismic imaging and finite element models to investigate the effects of rupture speed, elastic heterogeneities, and plasticity on shallow slip and distributed deformation.

We focus on two sites that experienced either predominantly co-seismic or post-seismic slip. We measured surface deformation with mobile laser scanning of deformed vine rows within ~300 m of the fault at 1 week and 1 month after the event. Shear strain profiles for the co- and post-seismic sites are similar, with maxima of 0.024 and 0.026 and values exceeding 0.004 occurring within 26 m- and 18 m-wide zones, respectively. That the rupture remained buried at the two sites and produced similar deformation fields suggests that permanent deformation due to dynamic stresses did not differ significantly from the quasi-static case, which would be expected if the rupture decelerated as it approached the surface.

Active-source seismic surveys, 120 m in length with 1 m geophone/shot spacing, reveal shallow compliant zones of reduced shear modulus. For the co- and post-seismic sites, the tomographic anomaly (Vp/Vs > 5) at 20 m depth has a width of ~80 m and ~50 m, respectively, much wider than the observed surface displacement fields. We investigate this discrepancy with a suite of finite element models in which a planar fault is buried 5 m below the surface. The model continuum is defined by either homogeneous or heterogeneous elastic properties, with or without Drucker-Prager plastic yielding, with properties derived from lab testing of similar near-surface materials. We find that plastic yielding can greatly narrow the surface displacement zone, but that the width of this zone is largely insensitive to changes in the elastic structure (i.e, compliant damage zone).

Session

Shear Zones
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