Predicting mining collapse: Superjerks and the appearance of record-breaking events in coal as collapse precursors
AbstractThe quest for predictive indicators for the collapse of coal mines has led to a robust criterion from scale-model tests in the laboratory. Mechanical collapse under uniaxial stress forms avalanches with a power-law probability distribution function of radiated energy P∼E−ɛ, with exponent ɛ=1.5. Impending major collapse is preceded by a reduction of the energy exponent to the mean-field value ɛ=1.32. Concurrently, the crackling noise increases in intensity and the waiting time between avalanches is reduced when the major collapse is approaching. These latter criteria were so-far deemed too unreliable for safety assessments in coal mines. We report a reassessment of previously collected extensive collapse data sets using “record-breaking analysis,” based on the statistical appearance of “superjerks” within a smaller spectrum of collapse events. Superjerks are defined as avalanche signals with energies that surpass those of all previous events. The final major collapse is one such superjerk but other “near collapse” events equally qualify. In this way a very large data set of events is reduced to a sparse sequence of superjerks (21 in our coal sample). The main collapse can be anticipated from the sequence of energies and waiting times of superjerks, ignoring all weaker events. Superjerks are excellent indicators for the temporal evolution, and reveal clear nonstationarity of the crackling noise at constant loading rate, as well as self-similarity in the energy distribution of superjerks as a function of the number of events so far in the sequence Esj∼nδ with δ=1.79. They are less robust in identifying the precise time of the final collapse, however, than the shift of the energy exponents in the whole data set which occurs only over a short time interval just before the major event. Nevertheless, they provide additional diagnostics that may increase the reliability of such forecasts.