A comparative analysis of continuum plasticity, viscoplasticity and phase-field models for earthquake sequence modeling

Mohsen Goudarzi*, Taras Gerya, Ylona van Dinther

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper discusses continuum models for simulating earthquake sequences on faults governed by rate-and-state dependent friction. Through detailed numerical analysis of a conventional strike-slip fault, new observations regarding the use of various continuum earthquake models are presented. We update a recently proposed plasticity-based model using a consistently linearized formulation, show its agreement with discrete fault models for fault thicknesses of hundreds of meters, and demonstrate mesh objectivity for slip-related variables. To obtain a fully regularized fault width description with an internal length scale, we study the performance and mesh convergence of a plasticity-based model complemented by a Kelvin viscosity term and the phase-field approach to cohesive fracture. The Kelvin viscoplasticity-based model can introduce an internal length scale and a mesh-objective response. However, on grid sizes down to meters, this only holds for very high Kelvin viscosities that inhibit seismic slip rates, which renders this approach impractical for simulating earthquake sequences. On the other hand, our phase-field implementation for earthquake sequences provides a numerically robust framework that agrees with a discrete reference solution, is mesh objective, and reaches seismic slip rates. The model, unsurprisingly, requires highly refined grids around the fault zones to reproduce results close to a discrete model. Following this line, the effect of an internal length scale parameter on the phase-field predictions and mesh convergence are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-633
Number of pages19
JournalComputational Mechanics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Earthquake dynamics
  • Kelvin viscoplasticity
  • Phase-field method
  • Strain localisation


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