The movement between tectonic plates is accommodated through brittle (elastic) displacement on the plate boundary faults and ductile permanent deformation on the fault borderland. The elastic displacement along the fault can occur in the form of either large seismic events or aseismic slip, known as fault creep. Fault creep mainly occurs at the deep ductile portion of the crust, where the temperature is high. Nonetheless, aseismic creep can also occur on the shallow brittle portion of the fault segments that are characterized by frictionally weak material, elevated pore fluid pressure, or geometrical complexity. Creeping segments are assumed to safely release the accumulated strain(Kodaira et al., 2004; Rice, 1992)(Kodaira et al., 2004; Rice, 1992)(Kodaira et al., 2004; Rice, 1992)(Kodaira et al., 2004; Rice, 1992)(Kodaira et al., 2004; Rice, 1992) on the fault and also impede propagation of the seismic rupture. The rate of aseismic slip on creeping faults, however, might not be steady in time and instead consist of successive periods of acceleration and deceleration, known as slow slip events (SSEs). SSEs, which aseismically release the strain energy over a period of days to months, rather than the seconds to minutes characteristic of a typical earthquake, have been interpreted as earthquake precursors and as possible triggering factor for major earthquakes. Therefore, understanding the partitioning of seismic and aseismic fault slip and evolution of creep is fundamental to constraining the fault earthquake potential and improving operational seismic hazard models. Thanks to advances in tectonic geodesy, it is now possible to detect the fault movement in high spatiotemporal resolution and develop kinematic models of the creep evolution on the fault to determine the budget of seismic and aseismic slip.
In this dissertation, I measure the decades-long time evolution of fault-related crustal deformation along the San Andrea Fault in California and the northeast Japan subduction zone using space-borne geodetic techniques, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) and Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR). The surface observation of deformation combined with seismic data set allow constraining the time series of creep distribution on the fault surface at seismogenic depth. The obtained time-dependent kinematic models reveal that creep in both study areas evolves through a series of SSEs, each lasting for several months. Using physics-based models informed by laboratory experiments, I show that the transient elevation of pore fluid pressure is the driving mechanism of SSEs. I further investigate the link between SSEs and evolution of seismicity on neighboring locked segments, which has implications for seismic hazard models and also provides insights into the pattern of microstructure on the fault surface. I conclude that while creeping segments act as seismic rupture barriers, SSEs on these zones might promote seismicity on adjacent seismogenic segments, thus change the short-term earthquake forecast.