Thomas H. Heaton - Research - Earthquake Rupture Physics and Crustal Stress

Earthquake Rupture Physics and Crustal Stress

Heaton is particularly interested in understanding the origins of spatially heterogeneous slip in earthquakes. There is compelling evidence that slip in earthquakes and stress in the earth’s crust are spatially heterogeneous, and perhaps fractal. Several approaches are being pursued in his group to understand the dynamic properties of this system. One of the approaches is the 3D finite element modeling for regions in the crust with ruptures occurring on fault planes controlled by dynamic friction and looking for conditions that are required to sustain the observed heterogeneous characteristics of stress and slip in cycles of earthquakes. On the other hand, Heaton was among the first to recognize that the heterogeneity in the crust could be modeled by 3D fractal tensors models for stress. With Deborah E. Smith, they generated those fractal stress tensors and used them to produce catalogs of earthquake locations and focal mechanisms. They could explain several field observations with this model. Also the model predicts that the strength of the crust should be a scale dependent property, a topic which is currently being further investigated in Heaton's group.

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