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TitleIf not brittle: ductile, plastic, or viscous?
AuthorWang, KORCID logo
SourceSeismological Research Letters vol. 92, issue 2A, 2021 p. 1181-1184,
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20200565
PublisherSeismological Society of America
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf; html
Subjectstectonics; Science and Technology; Nature and Environment; deformation; earthquakes; geodynamics; bedrock geology; structural features; faults; Terminology
Illustrationsschematic representations
ProgramPublic Safety Geoscience Assessing Earthquake Geohazards
Released2021 01 27
AbstractIntegrating earthquake studies with geodynamics requires knowledge of different modes of permanent deformation of rocks beyond seismic failure. However, upon stepping out of the realm of brittle failure, students find themselves in a zone of terminology conflict. Rocks below the brittle shallow part of the lithosphere are said to be ductile, plastic, or viscous, yet in many papers, what is obviously brittle deformation is said to be plastic. In this EduQuakes note, I explain the origin of this conflict and how to handle it. The primary reason for the conflict is that the word plastic is used by one research community to describe viscous deformation but by another community to describe permanent deformation that is NOT viscous. To the former community, emphasis is on the microscopic deformation mechanism. To the latter community, emphasis is on whether the macroscopic deformation is time-dependent. Using a Coulomb continuum to approximate the effects of numerous brittle faults adds another level of complexity. It is futile to expect a unification of terminology any time soon, but with some basic knowledge one can live with this situation without suffering scientific confusion.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Earthquake study requires understanding of different types of rock deformation. However, conflicting terminologies are widely used in the literature to describe deformation that is not brittle. For students and even senior researchers, the terminology conflict causes difficulty in learning about geodynamic processes that cause earthquakes. This article explains the origin of the conflict and how to handle it. It is written for a section of the journal Seismological Research Letters called EduQuakes which is designed mainly for student readers.

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