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The linear slip–weakening (SW) law, predicting that the traction decreases for increasing fault slip, is one of the most widely adopted governing models to describe the traction evolution and the stress release processes occurring during coseismic slip failures. We will show that, contrary to other constitutive models, the SW law inherently poses the problem of considering the Euclidean norm of the slip vector or its cumulative value along its path. In other words, it has the intrinsic problem of its analytical formulation, which does not have a solution a priori. By considering a fully dynamic, spontaneous, 3–D rupture problem, with rake rotation allowed, in this paper we explore whether these two formulations can lead to different results. We prove that, for homogeneous configurations, the two formulations give the same results, with a normalized difference less than 1%, which is comparable to the numerical error due to grid dispersion. In particular, we show that the total slip, the resulting seismic moment, the fracture energy density, the slip–weakening curve and the energy flux at the rupture front are practically identical in the two formulations. These findings contribute to reconcile the results presented in previous papers, where the two formulations have been differently employed. However, this coincidence is not the rule. Indeed, by considering models with a highly heterogeneous initial shear stress distribution, where the rake variation is significant, we have also demonstrated that the overall rupture history is quite different by assuming the two formulations, as well as the fault striations, the traction evolution and the scalar seismic moment. In this case the choice of the analytical formulation of the governing law does really matter.
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