Pore fluids are ubiquitous throughout the lithosphere and are commonly cited as the cause of slow-slip and complex modes of tectonic faulting. We investigate the role of fluids for slow-slip and the frictional stability transition and find that the mode of fault slip is mainly unaffected by pore pressures. We shear samples at effective normal stress (σ’n) of 20 MPa and pore pressures Pp from 1 to 4 MPa. The lab fault zones are 3 mm thick and composed of quartz powder with median grain size of 10 µm. Fault permeability evolves from 10-17 to 10-19 m2 over shear strains up to 26. Under these conditions, dilatancy strengthening is minimal. Slow slip may arise from dilatancy strengthening at higher fluid pressures but for the conditions of our experiments slip rate-dependent changes in the critical rate of frictional weakening are sufficient to explain slow-slip and the stability transition to dynamic rupture.
Decades of seismological observations have highlighted the variability of foreshock occurrence prior to natural earthquakes, making thus difficult to track how earthquakes start. Here, we report on three stick-slip experiments performed on cylindrical samples of Indian metagabbro under upper crustal stress conditions (30-60 MPa). Acoustic emissions (AEs) were continuously recorded by 8 calibrated acoustic sensors during the experiments. Seismological parameters of the detected AEs (-8.8 <= Mw <= -7 ) follow the scaling law between moment magnitude and corner frequency that characterizes natural earthquakes. AE activity always increases towards failure and is found to be driven by along fault slip velocity. The stacked AE foreshock sequences follow an inverse power-law of the time to failure (inverse Omori), with a characteristic Omori time c inversely proportional to normal stress and nucleation length. AEs moment magnitudes increase towards failure, as manifested by a decrease in b-value from ~ 1 to ~ 0.5 at the end of the nucleation process. During nucleation, the averaged distance of foreshocks to mainshock continuously decreases, highlighting the fast migration of foreshocks towards the mainshock epicenter location, and stabilizing at a distance from the latter compatible with the predicted Rate-and-State nucleation size. Finally, the seismic component of the nucleation phase is orders of magnitude smaller than that of its aseismic component, which suggests that foreshocks are the byproducts of a process almost fully aseismic. Seismic/aseismic energy release ratio continuously increases during nucleation, which starts as a fully aseismic process and evolves towards a cascading process.