The dilatancy-diffusion hypothesis and earthquake predictability

Iain G. Main, Andrew F. Bell, Philip G. Meredith, Sebastian Geiger, Sarah Touati

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther chapter contribution

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    The dilatancy–diffusion hypothesis was one of the first attempts to predict the form of potential geophysical signals that may precede earthquakes, and hence provide a possible physical basis for earthquake prediction. The basic hypothesis has stood up well in the laboratory, where catastrophic failure of intact rocks has been observed to be associated with geophysical signals associated both with dilatancy and pore pressure changes. In contrast, the precursors invoked to determine the predicted earthquake time and event magnitude have not stood up to independent scrutiny. There are several reasons for the lack of simple scaling between the laboratory and the field scales, but key differences are those of scale in time and space and in material boundary conditions, coupled with the sheer complexity and non-linearity of the processes involved. ‘Upscaling’ is recognized as a difficult task in multi-scale complex systems generally and in oil and gas reservoir engineering specifically. It may however provide a clue as to why simple local laws for dilatancy and diffusion do not scale simply to bulk properties at a greater scale, even when the fracture system that controls the mechanical and hydraulic properties of the reservoir rock is itself scale-invariant.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationFaulting, fracturing and igneous intrusion in the Earth's crust
    EditorsD. Healy, R.W.H. Butler, Z.K. Shipton, R.H. Sibson
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherGeological Society of London
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Print)9781862393479
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

    Publication series

    NameGeological Society special publication
    PublisherGeological Society of London
    ISSN (Print)0305-8719
    ISSN (Electronic)2041-4927


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