We report results from clay extension experiments used as a model for the evolution of fault populations due to stress interactions. At yielding cracks begin to appear and the brittle strain due to them quickly reaches a rate matching the applied stretching rate. The crack density (number of cracks per unit area) initially increases apace, then reaches a maximum at a critical strain, decreasing thereafter. At low strains, where the crack population is dilute, a power law length distribution is observed, which at high strain, gradually transitions to an exponential. This agrees with fault populations data observed in low and high strain settings. These results indicate that fault populations ranging from power law to exponential size-frequency distributions reflect the population evolution with increased strain.
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