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Potential role of volcanic glass-smectite mixtures in slow earthquakes in shallow subduction zones: Insights from low- to high-velocity friction experiments
  • Hanaya Okuda,
  • Takehiro Hirose,
  • Asuka Yamaguchi
Hanaya Okuda
Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo

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Takehiro Hirose
Kochi Institute for Core Sample Research, X-star, Japan Agency for Marine‐Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)
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Asuka Yamaguchi
University of Tokyo
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Volcanic glass and its mixture with smectite are commonly observed in shallow parts of subduction zones. As volcanic glass layers often act as a glide plane to induce mass transportation such as submarine landslides, and because its alteration product, smectite, is one of the frictionally weakest geological materials, the frictional characteristics of volcanic glass-smectite mixtures are important for fault slip behavior in shallow parts of subduction zones. We performed a series of friction experiments on volcanic glass-smectite mixtures with different smectite contents at various velocity conditions from 10 μm/s to 1 m/s under an effective normal stress of 5 MPa and pore pressure of 10 MPa. In general, friction coefficients negatively depend on the smectite content at any velocity tested. We found that samples with smectite contents of 15-30 % showed a drastic slip-weakening behavior at intermediate velocities of 1-3 mm/s with a characteristic slip displacement of ~0.1 m. Finite element method modeling shows that thermal pressurization does not contribute to the observed weakening behavior. We propose that gouge fluidization or compaction-induced pore pressure increase may be the cause of the weakening. The slip-weakening behavior at intermediate velocities enlarges a critical nucleation length for frictional instability to 1-30 km, or prevent acceleration to seismic slip velocities. Therefore, gouges with minor amount of clay, such as subducting volcanic ash layers, may contribute to the occurrence of the at shallow depths in subduction zones.
27 Jul 2023Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 10.1029/2022JB026156