Microscopic evolution of laboratory volcanic hybrid earthquakes

H. O. Ghaffari, W. A. Griffith, P. M. Benson

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Characterizing the interaction between fluids and microscopic defects is one of the long-standing challenges in understanding a broad range of cracking processes, in part because they are so difficult to study experimentally. We address this issue by reexamining records of emitted acoustic phonon events during rock mechanics experiments under wet and dry conditions. The frequency spectrum of these events provides direct information regarding the state of the system. Such events are typically subdivided into high frequency (HF) and low frequency (LF) events, whereas intermediate “Hybrid” events, have HF onsets followed by LF ringing. At a larger scale in volcanic terranes, hybrid events are used empirically to predict eruptions, but their ambiguous physical origin limits their diagnostic use. By studying acoustic phonon emissions from individual microcracking events we show that the onset of a secondary instability–related to the transition from HF to LF–occurs during the fast equilibration phase of the system, leading to sudden increase of fluid pressure in the process zone. As a result of this squeezing process, a secondary instability akin to the LF event occurs. This mechanism is consistent with observations of hybrid earthquakes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number40560
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date11 Jan 2017
Publication statusEarly online - 11 Jan 2017


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