Microphysical Modeling of Fault Slip and Stability Transition in Hydrothermal Conditions

Cheng Mei*, John W. Rudnicki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Field and laboratory observations indicate that the frictional behaviors of faults depend on hydrothermal conditions. We extend the microphysical Chen-Niemeijer-Spiers (CNS) model to hydrothermal conditions by using the observed temperature variation of indentation hardness to infer the temperature dependence of a microphysical parameter (Figure presented.). This parameter is assumed constant in previous versions of the CNS model. A simple spring-slider system is used to simulate the fault system and investigate the steady-state frictional behaviors of wet granite gouges. Our numerical results quantitatively reproduce experimental data showing the frictional-plastic transition. The results also describe the transition from velocity-strengthening at low temperatures (<160°C), to velocity-weakening at intermediate temperatures (160°C–370°C), then back to velocity-strengthening at high temperatures (>370°C). In our extended CNS model, these results suggest that the dominant shear deformation mechanism does transition from frictional granular flow to fully plastic creep with increasing temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2023GL103730
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 16 2023


  • earthquake physics
  • fault mechanics
  • frictional-plastic transition
  • high temperatures
  • rock friction
  • seismogenic zones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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