Textural record of the seismic cycle: strain-rate variation in an ancient subduction thrust
Active faults slip at different rates over the course of the seismic cycle: earthquake slip (c. 1 m s−1), interseismic creep (c. 10–100 mm year−1) and intermediate rate transients (e.g. afterslip and slow slip events). Studies of exhumed faults are sometimes able to identify seismic slip surfaces by the presence of frictional melts, and slow creep by textures diagnostic of rate-limited plastic processes. The Pasagshak Point Thrust preserves three distinct fault rock textures, which are mutually cross-cutting, and can be correlated to different strain rates. Ultrafine-grained black fault rocks, including pseudotachylyte, were formed during seismic slip on layers up to 30 cm thick. Well-organized S–C cataclasites 7–31 m thick were formed by slow creep, with pressure solution as a dominant, rate-limiting mechanism. These must have formed at strain rates consistent with long-term plate-boundary motion, but solution-creep healing acted to reduce porosity of the cataclasites and eventually restricted fluid connectivity such that creep by this mechanism could not continue. Disorganized, non-foliated, rounded clast cataclasites were formed at shear rates faster than solution creep and are interpreted as representing shear at intermediate strain rates. These could have formed during afterslip or delocalization of slip associated with an earthquake rupture.