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Title: Measuring and modelling the earthquake deformation cycle at continental dip-slip faults
Author: Ingleby, Thomas Francis
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 1300
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2018
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In order for an earthquake to become a natural disaster, it needs to be significantly large, close to vulnerable populations or both. The largest earthquakes in the world occur in subduction zones, where cool, shallowly dipping fault planes enable brittle failure over a large area. However, these earthquakes often occur far away from major cities, reducing their impact. Similar, low angle fault planes can be found in continental fold and thrust belts, where sub-horizontal decollements offer large potential rupture areas. These seismic sources are often much closer to major urban centres than off-shore subduction zone sources. It is therefore essential to understand the processes that control how strain is accommodated and released in such settings. Much of our current understanding of the earthquake cycle comes from studying strike-slip faults. Can our knowledge of strike-slip faults be transferred over to dip-slip faults, and in particular, fold and thrust belts? Previous work has suggested that there may be significant differences between strike-slip and dip-slip settings, and therefore further study of the earthquake cycle in dip-slip environments is required. The recent launch of Sentinel-1, and the extensive Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) archive of the European Space Agency (ESA), offer an opportunity to obtain measurements of strain in dip-slip environments that can contribute to our understanding. In this thesis, I use geodetic measurements to contribute to our understanding of the earthquake cycle. Enhanced surface deformation rates following earthquakes (so called postseismic deformation) show temporal and spatial variation. Such variation can be used to investigate the material properties of faults and the surrounding medium. I collate measurements of postseismic velocity following contintental earthquakes to examine the temporal evolution of strain following an earthquake over multiple timescales. The compilation show a simple relationship, with velocity inversely proportional to time since the earthquake. This relationship holds for all fault types, with no significant difference between dip-slip and strike-slip environments. Such lack of difference implies that, at least in terms of the temporal evolution of near field postseismic deformation, both environments behave similarly. I compare these measurements with the predictions of various models that are routinely used to explain postseismic deformation. I find that the results are best explained using either rate-strengthening afterslip or power-law creep in a shear zone with high stress exponent. Such a relationship indicates that fault zone processes dominate the near-field surface deformation field from hours after an earthquake to decades later. This implies that using such measurements to determine the strength of the bulk lithosphere should only be done with caution. I then collate geodetic measurements from throughout the earthquake cycle in the Nepal Himalaya to constrain the geometry and frictional properties of the fault system. I use InSAR to measure postseismic deformation following the 2015 Mw~7.8 Gorkha earthquake and combine this with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) displacements to infer the predominance of down-dip afterslip. I then combine these measurements with coseismic and interseismic geodetic data to determine fault geometries which are capable of simultaneously explaining all three data sets. Unfortunately, the geodetic data alone cannot determine the most appropriate geometry. It is therefore necessary to combine such measurements with other relevant data, along with the expertise to understand the uncertainties in each data set. Such combined measurements ought to be understood using physically consistent models. I developed a mechanically coupled coseismic-postseismic inversion, based on rate and state friction. The model simultaneously inverts the coseismic and postseismic surface deformation field to determine the range of frictional properties and coseismic slip which can explain the data within uncertainties. I applied this model to the geodetic data compilation in Nepal and obtained a range of values for the rate-and-state 'a' parameter between 0.8 - 1.6 x 10^-3, depending on the geometry used. Whilst the Nepal Himalaya is well instrumented, many continental collision zones suffer from a severe lack of data. The Sulaiman fold and thrust belt is one such region, with very sparse GNSS data, but significant seismicity. I apply InSAR to part of the Sulaiman fold and thrust belt near Sibi to examine the evolution of strain throughout the seismic cycle. I tie together observations from ERS, Envisat and Sentinel-1 to produce a time series of displacements over 25 years long which covers an earthquake which occurred in 1997. Using this time series, I investigate the contributions of different parts of the earthquake cycle to the development of topography. I find that postseismic deformation plays a clear role in the construction of short wavelength folds, and that the combination of coseismic and postseismic deformation can reproduce the topography over a variety of lengthscales. The shape of the frontal section of the fold and thrust belt, including the gradient of the topography, is roughly reproduced in a single earthquake cycle. This suggests that fold and thrust belts can maintain their taper in a single earthquake cycle, rather than through earthquakes occurring at different points throughout the belt. I find that approximately 1000 earthquakes like the 1997 event, along with associated postseismic deformation, can reproduce the topography seen today to first order. Such a result may aid our use of topography as a long-term record of earthquake cycle deformation. I finish by drawing these various findings together and commenting on common themes. Afterslip plays an important role in the earthquake cycle, contributing to the surface deformation field in multiple locations, over multiple timescales, and generating topography. This afterslip can be explained using a rate-strengthening friction law with a*sigma between 0.2 and 1.54 MPa. Combining this rate dependence with the static coefficient of friction determined from other methods, such as critical taper analysis, would enable a more complete picture of fault friction to be determined. Fault geometry in fold and thrust belts may control the size of potential ruptures, with junctions and changes in dip angle potentially arresting ruptures. In order to fully determine the role of fault geometry and friction in controlling the earthquake cycle in dip-slip settings, I suggest a more thorough exploitation of the wealth of InSAR data which is now available. These data then need to be combined with measurements from other fields, and models produced which are consistent within the uncertainties of each data set. I suggest that measurements of topography and insights from structural geology may help with understanding the long term and short term processes governing earthquake patterns in an area. As both observations and models are developed, interdisciplinary teams may be able to better constrain the key controls on earthquake hazard in continental dip-slip settings.
Supervisor: Wright, Tim ; Hooper, Andy ; Houseman, Greg Sponsor: NERC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available