From geodetic imaging of seismic and aseismic fault slip to dynamic modeling of the seismic cycle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

265 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the partitioning of seismic and aseismic fault slip is central to seismotectonics as it ultimately determines the seismic potential of faults. Thanks to advances in tectonic geodesy, it is now possible to develop kinematic models of the spatiotemporal evolution of slip over the seismic cycle and to determine the budget of seismic and aseismic slip. Studies of subduction zones and continental faults have shown that aseismic creep is common and sometimes prevalent within the seismogenic depth range. Interseismic coupling is generally observed to be spatially heterogeneous, defining locked patches of stress accumulation, to be released in future earthquakes or aseismic transients, surrounded by creeping areas. Clay-rich tectonites, high temperature, and elevated pore-fluid pressure seem to be key factors promoting aseismic creep. The generally logarithmic time evolution of afterslip is a distinctive feature of creeping faults that suggests a logarithmic dependency of fault friction on slip rate, as observed in laboratory friction experiments. Most faults can be considered to be paved with interlaced patches where the friction law is either rate-strengthening, inhibiting seismic rupture propagation, or rate-weakening, allowing for earthquake nucleation. The rate-weakening patches act as asperities on which stress builds up in the interseismic period; they might rupture collectively in a variety of ways. The pattern of interseismic coupling can help constrain the return period of the maximum- magnitude earthquake based on the requirement that seismic and aseismic slip sum to match long-term slip. Dynamic models of the seismic cycle based on this conceptual model can be tuned to reproduce geodetic and seismological observations. The promise and pitfalls of using such models to assess seismic hazard are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-271
Number of pages39
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 May 2015


  • Aseismic creep
  • Asperities
  • Earthquake
  • Seismic and interseismic coupling


Dive into the research topics of 'From geodetic imaging of seismic and aseismic fault slip to dynamic modeling of the seismic cycle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this