Abstract

Pseudotachylyte formed by frictional melting has been the only unequivocal evidence of past seismogenic fault slip. We report from high-velocity friction experiments on siderite-bearing gouge that mineral decomposition due to frictional heating also can leave evidence of paleoseismic events along shallow crustal faults other than pseudotachylyte. Experiments were conducted room dry on simulated gouge composed of siderite or mixture of siderite, calcite, and quartz, initially at room temperature, under normal stresses of 0.6–1.3 MPa and at seismic slip rates of 1.3–2.0 m/s. In all cases, gouge exhibited dramatic slip weakening and siderite was decomposed into nanocrystalline magnetite and CO2 gas, as confirmed by CO2 measurement, X-ray diffraction analyses, and transmission electron microscopy. The weakening was caused by the low frictional strength of ultrafine decomposition products at seismic slip rates. Magnetite formation during shearing changed gouge color to black and increased magnetic susceptibility by a few orders of magnitude. Those changes can be recognized in natural fault zones, and black gouge in the Chelungpu fault zone in Taiwan is perhaps such an example. Thus our results suggest that thermal decomposition in shallow crustal faults can be an important co-seismic process not only for dynamic fault weakening, but also for leaving seismic slip records.

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