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Lu, KQ; Cao, ZX; Hou, MY; Jiang, ZH; Shen, R; Wang, Q; Sun, G; Liu, JX
The mechanism of earthquake
KeywordSan-andreas Fault Shear-strength Pressure 12 Wenchuan Earthquake Km Depth Empirical Relationship Laboratory Experiments Supercritical Water Stress Measurements Jamming Transition Crustal Strength

The physical mechanism of earthquake remains a challenging issue to be clarified. Seismologists used to attribute shallow earthquake to the elastic rebound of crustal rocks. The seismic energy calculated following the elastic rebound theory and with the data of experimental results upon rocks, however, shows a large discrepancy with measurement a fact that has been dubbed as "the heat flow paradox". For the intermediate focus and deep-focus earthquakes, both occurring in the region of the mantle, there is not reasonable explanation either. This paper will discuss the physical mechanism of earthquake from a new perspective, starting from the fact that both crust and mantle are discrete collective system of matters with slow dynamics, as well as from the basic principles of physics, especially some new concepts of condensed matter physics emerged in recent years. (1) Stress distribution in earth's crust: Without taking the tectonic force into account, according to the rheological principle of "everything flows", the normal stress and transverse stress must be balanced due to the effect of gravitational pressure over a long period of time, thus no differential stress in the original crustal rocks is to be expected. The tectonic force is successively transferred and accumulated via stick-slip motions of rock blocks to squeeze the fault gouge and then exerted upon other rock blocks. The superposition of such additional lateral tectonic force and the original stress gives rise to the real-time stress in crustal rocks. The mechanical characteristics of fault gouge are different from rocks as it consists of granular matters. The elastic moduli of the fault gouges are much less than those of rocks, and they become larger with increasing pressure. This peculiarity of the fault gouge leads to a tectonic force increasing with depth in a nonlinear fashion. The distribution and variation of the tectonic stress in the crust are specified. (2) The strength of crust rocks: The gravitational pressure can initiate the elasticity plasticity transition in crust rocks. By calculating the depth dependence of elasticity plasticity transition and according to the actual situation analysis, the behaviors of crust rocks can be categorized into three typical zones: elastic, partially plastic and fully plastic. As the proportion of plastic portion reaches about 10% in the partially plastic zone, plastic interconnection may occur and the variation of shear strength in rocks is mainly characterized by plastic behavior. The equivalent coefficient of friction for the plastic slip is smaller by an order of magnitude, or even less than that for brittle fracture, thus the shear strength of rocks by plastic sliding is much less than that by brittle breaking. Moreover, with increasing depth a number of other factors can further reduce the shear yield strength of rocks. On the other hand, since earthquake is a large-scale damage, the rock breaking must occur along the weakest path. Therefore, the actual fracture strength of rocks in a shallow earthquake is assuredly lower than the average shear strength of rocks as generally observed. The typical distributions of the average strength and actual fracture strength in crustal rocks varying with depth are schematically illustrated. (3) The conditions for earthquake occurrence and mechanisms of earthquake: An earthquake will lead to volume expansion, and volume expansion must break through the obstacle. The condition for an earthquake to occur is as follows: the tectonic force exceeds the sum of the fracture strength of rock, the friction force of fault boundary and the resistance from obstacles. Therefore, the shallow earthquake is characterized by plastic sliding of rocks that break through the obstacles. Accordingly, four possible patterns for shallow earthquakes are put forward. Deep-focus earthquakes are believed to result from a wide-range rock flow that breaks the jam. Both shallow earthquakes and deep-focus earthquakes are the energy release caused by the slip or flow of rocks following a jamming-unjamming transition. (4) The energetics and impending precursors of earthquake: The energy of earthquake is the kinetic energy released from the jamming unjamming transition. Calculation shows that the kinetic energy of seismic rock sliding is comparable with the total work demanded for rocks' shear failure and overcoming of frictional resistance. There will be no heat flow paradox. Meanwhile, some valuable seismic precursors are likely to be identified by observing the accumulation of additional tectonic forces, local geological changes, as well as the effect of rock state changes, etc.

Subject AreaPhysics
MOST Discipline CataloguePhysics, Applied ; Physics, Condensed Matter ; Physics, Mathematical
Indexed BySCIE
Citation statistics
Cited Times:2[WOS]   [WOS Record]     [Related Records in WOS]
Document Type期刊论文
Affiliation1.Chinese Acad Sci, Inst Phys, Beijing Natl Lab Condensed Matter Phys, Beijing 100190, Peoples R China
2.Harbin Inst Technol, Dept Appl Phys, Harbin 150001, Heilongjiang, Peoples R China
3.Chinese Acad Sci, Inst Theoret Phys, Beijing 100190, Peoples R China
Recommended Citation
GB/T 7714
Lu, KQ,Cao, ZX,Hou, MY,et al. The mechanism of earthquake[J]. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MODERN PHYSICS B,2018,32(7):1850080.
APA Lu, KQ.,Cao, ZX.,Hou, MY.,Jiang, ZH.,Shen, R.,...&Liu, JX.(2018).The mechanism of earthquake.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MODERN PHYSICS B,32(7),1850080.
MLA Lu, KQ,et al."The mechanism of earthquake".INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MODERN PHYSICS B 32.7(2018):1850080.
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