Seismic wave transmission and Digital Image Correlation (DIC) are employed to study slip processes along frictional discontinuities. A series of biaxial compression experiments are performed on gypsum specimens with non-homogeneous contact surfaces. The specimens are composed of two blocks with perfectly mated contact surfaces with a smooth surface with low frictional strength on the upper half and a rough surface with high frictional strength on the lower half. Compressional, P, and shear, S, wave pulses were transmitted through the discontinuity and digital images of the specimen surface were acquired during the test. A distinct peak in the amplitude of transmitted wave occurs prior to the peak shear strength and is considered a "precursor" to the failure. Precursors indicate that slip initiates from the smooth surface and extends to the rough surface as the shear load is increased. From the DIC data, slip is identified as a jump in the displacement field across the discontinuity that initiates from the smooth surface and propagates to the rough surface. Precursors are associated with an increase of the rate of relative displacement across the discontinuity and are a measure of a reduction of the fracture's shear stiffness.

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