Thermal alteration of pyrite to pyrrhotite during earthquakes: New evidence of seismic slip in the rock record

Tao Yang*, Mark J. Dekkers, Jianye Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Seismic slip zones convey important information on earthquake energy dissipation and rupture processes. However, geological records of earthquakes along exhumed faults remain scarce. They can be traced with a variety of methods that establish the frictional heating of seismic slip, although each has certain assets and disadvantages. Here we describe a mineral magnetic method to identify seismic slip along with its peak temperature through examination of magnetic mineral assemblages within a fault zone in deep‐sea sediments cored from the Japan Trench—one of the seismically most active regions around Japan—during the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 343, the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project. Fault zone sediments and adjacent host sediments were analyzed mineral magnetically, supplemented by scanning electron microscope observations with associated energy dispersive X‐ray spectroscopy analyses. The presence of the magnetic mineral pyrrhotite appears to be restricted to three fault zones occurring at ~697, ~720, and ~801 m below sea floor in the frontal prism sediments, while it is absent in the adjacent host sediments. Elevated temperatures and coseismic hot fluids as a consequence of frictional heating during earthquake rupture induced partial reaction of preexisting pyrite to pyrrhotite. The presence of pyrrhotite in combination with pyrite‐to‐pyrrhotite reaction kinetics constrains the peak temperature to between 640 and 800°C. The integrated mineral‐magnetic, microscopic, and kinetic approach adopted here is a useful tool to identify seismic slip along faults without frictional melt and establish the associated maximum temperature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1116-1131
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


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