Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
Research article
26 Apr 2018
Research article |  | 26 Apr 2018

High stresses stored in fault zones: example of the Nojima fault (Japan)

Anne-Marie Boullier, Odile Robach, Benoît Ildefonse, Fabrice Barou, David Mainprice, Tomoyuki Ohtani, and Koichiro Fujimoto

Abstract. During the last decade pulverized rocks have been described on outcrops along large active faults and attributed to damage related to a propagating seismic rupture front. Questions remain concerning the maximal lateral distance from the fault plane and maximal depth for dynamic damage to be imprinted in rocks. In order to document these questions, a representative core sample of granodiorite located 51.3 m from the Nojima fault (Japan) that was drilled after the Hyogo-ken Nanbu (Kobe) earthquake is studied by using electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD) and high-resolution X-ray Laue microdiffraction. Although located outside of the Nojima damage fault zone and macroscopically undeformed, the sample shows pervasive microfractures and local fragmentation. These features are attributed to the first stage of seismic activity along the Nojima fault characterized by laumontite as the main sealing mineral. EBSD mapping was used in order to characterize the crystallographic orientation and deformation microstructures in the sample, and X-ray microdiffraction was used to measure elastic strain and residual stresses on each point of the mapped quartz grain. Both methods give consistent results on the crystallographic orientation and show small and short wavelength misorientations associated with laumontite-sealed microfractures and alignments of tiny fluid inclusions. Deformation microstructures in quartz are symptomatic of the semi-brittle faulting regime, in which low-temperature brittle plastic deformation and stress-driven dissolution-deposition processes occur conjointly. This deformation occurred at a 3.7–11.1 km depth interval as indicated by the laumontite stability domain.

Residual stresses are calculated from deviatoric elastic strain tensor measured using X-ray Laue microdiffraction using the Hooke's law. The modal value of the von Mises stress distribution is at 100 MPa and the mean at 141 MPa. Such stress values are comparable to the peak strength of a deformed granodiorite from the damage zone of the Nojima fault. This indicates that, although apparently and macroscopically undeformed, the sample is actually damaged. The homogeneously distributed microfracturing of quartz is the microscopically visible imprint of this damage and suggests that high stresses were stored in the whole sample and not only concentrated on some crystal defects. It is proposed that the high residual stresses are the sum of the stress fields associated with individual dislocations and dislocation microstructures. These stresses are interpreted to be originated from the dynamic damage related to the propagation of rupture fronts or seismic waves at a depth where confining pressure prevented pulverization. Actually, M6 to M7 earthquakes occurred during the Paleocene on the Nojima fault and are good candidates for inducing this dynamic damage. The high residual stresses and the deformation microstructures would have contributed to the widening of the damaged fault zone with additional large earthquakes occurring on the Nojima fault.

Short summary
The paper describes microstructures in granitic rocks located 50 m away from the Nojima fault in Japan. Although macroscopically undeformed, the sample displays evidence for intense dynamic damage at the microscopic scale. Elastic strain and high residual stresses stored in quartz grains suggest that they were produced by propagating rupture fronts associated with M6 to M7 earthquakes and contributed to the widening of the damaged fault zone along the Nojima fault during the Paleocene.