New constraints on megathrust slip stability under subduction zone P-T conditions

S. A. M. den Hartog*, A. R. Niemeijer, Christopher J. Spiers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (SciVal)


To understand and model subduction zone seismogenesis, data are needed on the frictional properties of (meta)pelitic subduction zone materials under in situ megathrust conditions. Here, we report the results of rotary shear friction experiments on simulated illite-quartz fault gouge at an effective normal stress of 170. MPa, a pore fluid pressure of 100. MPa, at 150-500°C and sliding velocities of 1-100. μm/s. The results show three temperature-dependent regimes, characterized by velocity-strengthening at 150-250°C, velocity-weakening at 250-400°C and velocity-strengthening at 400-500°C. The regimes are defined by a decrease in the rate and state friction (RSF) parameter (a-b) at 150-300°C followed by an increase at 300-500°C. These trends correlate with systematic changes in other RSF parameters, as well as an increase in friction coefficient above 300°C. We explain the effects of increasing temperature in terms of a transition from frictional granular flow (150-250°C), through granular flow whereby dilatation is balanced by thermally activated compaction involving stress corrosion cracking (SCC) of quartz clasts (250-400°C), to non-dilatant slip on the phyllosilicates with accommodation at quartz clasts by SCC (400-500°C). Taking into account the effects of sliding velocity, the observed velocity-weakening regime broadly explains the extent of the seismogenic zone within subduction megathrusts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-252
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012


  • Deformation mechanisms
  • Fault gouge
  • Illite
  • Rate and state friction
  • Subduction zone seismogenesis
  • Velocity-weakening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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