Dynamics and Near-Field Surface Motions of Transitioned Supershear Laboratory Earthquakes in Thrust Faults

Yuval Tal, Vito Rubino, Ares J. Rosakis, Nadia Lapusta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study how the asymmetric geometry of thrust faults affects the dynamics of supershear ruptures and their associated trailing Rayleigh ruptures as they interact with the free surface, and investigate the resulting near-field ground motions. Earthquakes are mimicked by propagating laboratory ruptures along a frictional interface with a 61° dip angle. Using an experimental technique that combines ultrahigh-speed photography with digital image correlation, we produce sequences of full-field evolving measurements of particle displacements and velocities. Our full-field measurement capability allows us to confirm and quantify the asymmetry between the experimental motions of the hanging and footwalls, with larger velocity magnitudes occurring at the hanging wall. Interestingly, because the motion of the hanging wall is generally near-vertical, while that of the footwall is at dip direction shallower than the dip angle of the fault, the horizontal surface velocity components are found to be larger at the footwall than at the hanging wall. The attenuation in surface velocity with distance from the fault trace is generally larger at the hanging wall than at the footwall and it is more pronounced in the vertical component than in the horizontal one. Measurements of the rotations in surface motions confirm experimentally that the interaction of the rupture with the free surface can be interpreted through a torqueing mechanism that leads to reduction in normal stress near the free surface for thrust earthquakes. Nondimensional analysis shows that the experimental measurements are consistent with larger-scale numerical simulations as well as field observations from thrust earthquakes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JB023733
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • digital image correlation
  • dynamic ruptures
  • ground motion
  • laboratory earthquakes
  • supershear
  • thrust faults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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