Models of fault zones in continental crust, based on the analysis of rock deformation textures, suggest that the depth of seismic activity is controlled by the passage from a pressure-sensitive, dominantly frictional regime to strongly temperature-dependent, quasi-plastic mylonitization at greenschist and higher grades of metamorphism. Sufficient knowledge now exists concerning the frictional and rheological properties of quartz-bearing rocks to construct crude strength-depth curves for different geotherms. In such models, shear resistance peaks sharply at the inferred seismic-aseismic transition. The maximum depth of microseismic activity in various heat flow provinces of the conterminous United States generally correlates well with the frictional to quasi-plastic transition modeled for the different geotherms. Larger earthquakes (ML > 5.5) also tend to nucleate near the base of the seismogenic zone. This region is postulated to have the highest concentration of distortional strain energy for stress levels at failure, and can be regarded as the prime asperity in crustal fault zones.

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