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Finite element analysis of crustal deformation in the Ou Backbone Range, northeastern Japan, with non-linear visco-elasticity and plasticity: effects of non-uniform thermal structure


A finite element analysis with non-linear visco-elasticity and plasticity was carried out with the aim of constructing a model of the slip and deformation processes in the deeper parts of the seismogenic zones of inland earthquakes. Our finite element code is based on the GeoFEM parallel finite element code and was developed using plug-ins to adopt several non-linear functions. We consider the effects of geothermal structures in the crust in a compressional tectonic setting to model the deformation and faulting that occur around the Ou Backbone Range in northeastern Japan. We set an area of high geothermal gradient in the center of the model. The numerical results show that shortening deformation due to non-linear viscous flow occurs in the high-temperature area in the lower part of the crust, which results in shear faulting in the upper part of the crust. In the case where the crust comprises two layers—the upper crust (quartz diorite) and the lower crust (wet diabase)—a weak viscous zone appears in the lower part of the upper crust and a strong viscous or plastic zone appears at the upper part of the lower crust. Our numerical results are able to explain the deformation and faulting that occur around the Ou Backbone Range in northeastern Japan.


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Correspondence to Bunichiro Shibazaki.

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Shibazaki, B., Garatani, K. & Okuda, H. Finite element analysis of crustal deformation in the Ou Backbone Range, northeastern Japan, with non-linear visco-elasticity and plasticity: effects of non-uniform thermal structure. Earth Planet Sp 59, 499–512 (2007).

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Key words

  • GeoFEM
  • crustal deformation
  • non-linear visco-elasticity
  • plasticity
  • thermal structure
  • Ou Backbone Range