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Authors: Cocco, M.* 
Tinti, E.* 
Title: Scale dependence in the dynamics of earthquake propagation: Evidence from seismological and geological observations
Issue Date: 26-Jun-2008
Series/Report no.: 1/273(2008)
DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2008.06.025
Keywords: earthquake mechanics
dynamic fault weakening
fracture energy
fault friction
earthquake energy budget
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.06. Seismology::04.06.01. Earthquake faults: properties and evolution 
Abstract: We attempt to reconcile current understanding of the earthquake energy balance with recent estimates of fracture energy from seismological investigations and surface energy from geological observations. The complex structure of real fault zones suggests that earthquakes in such fault structures are dominated by scale-dependent processes.We present a model for an inelastic fault zone of finite thickness embedded in an elastic crust represented at a macroscopic scale by a mathematical plane of zero thickness. The constitutive properties of the fault zone are governed by physical processes controlling gouge and damage evolution at meso- and micro-scale. However, in order to model and interpret seismological observations, we represent dynamic fault weakening at the macroscopic scale in terms of traction evolution as a function of slip and other internal variables defining a phenomenological friction or contact law on the virtual mathematical plane. This contact law is designed to capture the main features of dynamic fault weakening during earthquake rupture. In this study we assume that total shear traction is friction and corresponds to shear resistance of the whole fault zone.We show that seismological observations, depending on finite and limited wavelength and frequency bandwidth, can only provide an estimate of breakdown stress drop and breakdown work (a more general definition of seismological fracture energy) representing a lower bound of the total intrinsic power of dissipation on the fault zone. We emphasize that geological estimates of surface energy can be compared with seismological estimates of breakdown work only if they are representative of the same macroscopic scale. In this case, it emerges that, contrary to surface energy, seismological breakdown work represents a non-negligible contribution to the earthquake energy budget.
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