Geophysical Signatures of Shear-Induced Damage and Frictional Processes on Rock Joints

Ahmadreza Hedayat, Hadi Haeri, John Hinton, Hossein Masoumi, Giovanni Spagnoli

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44 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, ultrasonic waves recorded during direct shear experiments on rock joints were employed to investigate the shear failure processes. Three types of wave attributes were systematically observed prior to the shear failure of the rock joints: (a) maximum in the amplitude of the transmitted wave, (b) maximum in the dominant frequency of the transmitted wave, and (c) maximum in the velocity of the wave. Different processes occurring during both frictional sliding and stick-slip oscillations were identified in this study: (a) interseismic phase and (b) preseismic phase. The interseismic phase is associated with elastic loading, very small local slip rate, and increasing ultrasonic transmission along the contact surfaces. The rock joint is considered locked, and the increase in ultrasonic transmission represents an increase in the real (true) area of contact because of interlocking and contact aging. The start of the preseismic phase is marked by the onset of precursors for different regions of the rock joint. Following the interseismic and preseismic phases, coseismic phase occurs. The coseismic phase begins with the reduction in the applied shear stress and is associated with an abrupt increase in the local slip rate. The reductions in transmitted amplitude, wave velocity, and dominant frequency all indicate the preseismic phase when the asperity contacts begin to fail before macroscopic frictional sliding. The observation of the preseismic phase in both the loading phase leading to stable sliding and stick-slip failure modes suggests that microphysical processes of fault weakening may share key features for these two failure modes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1143-1160
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • amplitude
  • dominant frequency
  • frictional processes
  • rock joints
  • wave transmission
  • wave velocity

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