Studies in this broad field can be generally divided into problems involving details of individual earthquake ruptures and problems associated with collective behavior of many earthquakes and faults. Examples of research topics in the former category include nucleation, propagation and arrest phases of earthquake ruptures, energy partitioning during failure episodes between seismic radiation and dissipative processes like heat and new rock damage, and observed earthquake source properties. Examples of research topics in the latter category include spatio-temporal patterns of earthquakes and faults, emerging correlations of dynamic variables, long-term evolutionary processes, and various types of statistics.
Geophysics faculty at USC work in collaboration with various colleagues on a wide range of problems in both categories of study, using theoretical tools from continuum and statistical mechanics, numerical simulations of dynamic ruptures in models with bimaterial interfaces, non-planar faults and spontaneous generation of rock damage in the bulk, and observational studies associated with laboratory experiments and in-situ seismological and geological data.
Illustration above depicts problems associated with individual earthquake ruptures and collective behavior of many events. (a) Examples from physics of earthquakes and faults. (b) Examples from behavior of ideal gas.
From Ben-Zion (Rev. Geophysics, 2008)