Shear-Wave Splitting Indicates Non-Linear Dynamic Deformation in the Crust and Upper Mantle

  • Stuart CrampinEmail author
  • Gulten Polat
  • Yuan Gao
  • David B. Taylor
  • Nurcan Meral Ozel


We demonstrate that non-linear dynamic deformation exists throughout the crust and upper mantle of the Earth. Stress-aligned shear-wave splitting, seismic birefringence, is widely observed in the Earth’s upper crust, lower-crust, and uppermost ∼400 km of the mantle. Attributed to the effects of pervasive distributions of stress-aligned fluid-saturated microcracks in the crust (and controversially intergranular films of hydrated melt in the mantle), the degree splitting indicates that ‘microcracks’ are so closely spaced that they verge on failure in fracturing and earthquakes if there is any disturbance. Phenomena that verge on failure are critical systems with non-linear dynamics that impose a range of new properties on conventional sub-critical geophysics that we suggest is a New Geophysics. Consequently, shear-wave splitting provides directly interpretable information about the progress of non-linear dynamic deformation in the deep otherwise-inaccessible interior of the microcracked Earth. Possibly uniquely for non-linear dynamic phenomena, observation of shear-wave splitting allows the progress towards singularities to be monitored in deep in situ rock, so that earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can be predicted (we prefer stress-forecast). The response to other processes, such as hydraulic fracking, can be monitored, and in some cases calculated and effects predicted. Here, we review shear-wave splitting and demonstrate the prevalence of non-linear dynamic deformation of the New Geophysics in the crust and uppermost ∼400 km of the mantle.


Monitoring fracking New Geophysics Non-linear dynamics Shear-wave splitting Stress-aligned microcracks Stress-forecasting earthquakes Stress-forecasting volcanic eruptions 



The authors thank Sheila Peacock and Peter Leary for their comments. Yuan Gao was partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Project 41174042. We thank the Director of Science and Technology of the British Geological Survey (NERC) for approval to publish this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart Crampin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gulten Polat
    • 1
  • Yuan Gao
    • 1
  • David B. Taylor
    • 1
  • Nurcan Meral Ozel
    • 1
  1. 1.British Geological SurveyThe Lyell CentreEdinburghUK

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