The use of earthquake rate changes as a stress meter at Kilauea volcano

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Stress changes in the Earth's crust are generally estimated from model calculations that use near-surface deformation as an observational constraint. But the widespread correlation of changes of earthquake activity with stress1,2,3,4,5 has led to suggestions that stress changes might be calculated from earthquake occurrence rates obtained from seismicity catalogues. Although this possibility has considerable appeal, because seismicity data are routinely collected and have good spatial and temporal resolution, the method has not yet proven successful, owing to the nonlinearity of earthquake rate changes with respect to both stress and time. Here, however, we present two methods for inverting earthquake rate data to infer stress changes, using a formulation for the stress- and time-dependence of earthquake rates6. Application of these methods at Kilauea volcano, in Hawaii, yields good agreement with independent estimates, indicating that earthquake rates can provide a practical remote-sensing stress meter.

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Figure 1: Map of Kilauea volcano showing earthquakes of magnitude M ≈ 1.5 from 1976 to 1983.
Figure 2: Earthquakes and stresses for the small polygon shown in Fig. 1.
Figure 3: Earthquakes of magnitude M ≈ 1.5 and Coulomb stress scale on a cross-section along the midline of the large box shown in Fig. 1.
Figure 4: Comparison of stresses calculated from the boundary element model of the 1983 intrusion event (Fig. 3b) with the stresses calculated from the seismicity rate changes (Fig. 3c).


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We thank A. Rubin for useful suggestions for this manuscript.

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Correspondence to James Dieterich.

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