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Earthquake modelers unite to compare and improve codes

 


Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

Movement along faults in the Earth’s crust can be sudden and painful, as felt during an earthquake, or it can occur gradually over thousands of years. Any type of movement along the fault may influence stresses and other factors that contribute to subsequent movements.

To better understand these dynamic fault zone processes, researchers have developed physics-based computational models that simulate earthquake sequences and non-seismic motions. These simulations can help reveal new insights into earthquakes, including the factors that influence their timing, location, duration and magnitude. However, these models are becoming more advanced and detailed. Researchers face a growing need to verify the underlying numerical code to ensure the reliability of simulations.

Unlike model validation, where simulations are tested for their ability to reproduce real-world observations, code validation involves establishing computational criteria—essentially, well-defined problems to solve—to test the reliability and ability of simulations to accurately represent a conceptual understanding of earthquake behavior.

In a new study, Jiang et al. Report on efforts led by the international community to compare and validate the various numerical codes that underpin simulations of fault zone operations. Building on previous efforts, the researchers developed two new 3D measurement problems to test and compare different digital codes. Both standards require the simulation of motion along a fault embedded in a three-dimensional space with certain physical properties, which reflects conceptual seismic dynamics.

Seismologists from around the world have used the standards to test a range of simulations of fault zone processes. Overall, these efforts provided confirmation of the accuracy of the simulations. In particular, the simulation accurately reproduced the earthquake duration, total motion, maximum speed, and stress variation on the faults.

However, the discrepancy between some of the simulations was also evident. For example, computational models using different sizes and spatial resolutions have varied in their simulations of how earthquakes start and grow, and how often they recur.

These findings could aid in future earthquake modeling efforts, which the researchers hope will aid the emergence of a new generation of models to better understand fault zone dynamics and seismic hazards. (Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JB023519, 2022)

– Sarah Stanley, science writer

Citation: Stanley, S. (2022), Earthquake designers unite to compare and improve code, EOS, 103, https://doi.org/10.1029/2022EO220222. Posted on May 2, 2022. Text © 2022. AGU. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Unless otherwise noted, images are subject to copyright. Any reuse without the express permission of the copyright owner is prohibited. Related

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