A Numerical Insight into Laboratory Earthquakes
We propose a numerical model of laboratory earthquake cycle inspired by a set of experiments performed on a triaxial apparatus on sawcut Carrara marble samples. The model couples two representations of rock matter: rock is essentially represented as an elastic continuum, except in the vicinity of the sliding interface, where a discrete representation is employed. This allows to simulate in a single framework the storage and release of strain energy in the bulk of the sample and in the loading system, the damage of rock due to sliding, and the progressive production of a granular gouge layer in the interface. After independent calibration, we find that the tribosystem pontaneously evolves towards a stick-slip sliding regime, mimicking in a satisfactory way the behaviour observed in the lab. The model offers insights on complex phenomena which are out of reach in experiments. This includes the variability in space and time of the fields of stress and effective friction along the fault, the progressive thickening of the damaged region of rock around the interface, and the build-up of a granular layer of gouge accommodating shear. We present in detail several typical sliding events, we illustrate the fault heterogeneity, and we analyse quantitatively the damage rate in the numerical samples. Some limitations of the model are pointed out, as well as ideas of future improvements, and several research directions are proposed in order to further explore the large numerical dataset produced by these simulations.