Frictional properties of megathrust fault gouges at low sliding velocities: New data on effects of normal stress and temperature

Sabine A. M. den Hartog*, Colin J. Peach, D. A. Matthijs de Winter, Christopher J. Spiers, Toshihiko Shimamoto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Friction data used in modelling studies of subduction zone seismogenesis are often poorly representative of in situ conditions. We investigated the influence of in situ effective stresses and temperatures on the frictional properties of (simulated) fault gouges, prepared either from Nankai ODP material or illite shale, at sliding velocities approaching those relevant for earthquake nucleation and SSEs. Biaxial (double direct shear) experiments were performed at room temperature, normal stresses of 5-30. MPa, and sliding velocities of 0.16-18. μm/s. All materials exhibited velocity strengthening under these conditions, along with an increase in the friction coefficient and slip hardening rate with increasing normal stress. Illite gouge showed increased velocity strengthening towards higher normal stresses. The effect of temperature was investigated by means of ring shear experiments on illite gouge at 200-300 °C, an effective normal stress of 170. MPa, a pore-fluid pressure of 100. MPa and sliding velocities of 1-100 μm/s. These experiments showed a transition from velocity strengthening to velocity weakening at ∼250 °C. Our results provide a possible explanation for the updip seismogenic limit within subduction zone megathrusts and imply an enhanced tendency for earthquake nucleation and SSEs at low effective normal stresses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-171
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


  • Illite
  • Ocean Drilling Program Leg 190
  • Smectite
  • Subduction zone seismicity
  • Updip seismogenic limit
  • Velocity weakening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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