Influence of static stress changes on earthquake locations in southern California

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Abstract

EARTHQUAKES induce changes in static stress on neighbouring faults that may delay, hasten or even trigger subsequent earthquakes1–10. The length of time over which such effects persist has a bearing on the potential contribution of stress analyses to earthquake hazard assessment, but is presently unknown. Here we use an elastic half-space model11 to estimate the static stress changes generated by damaging (magnitude M≥5) earthquakes in southern California over the past 26 years, and to investigate the influence of these changes on subsequent earthquake activity. We find that, in the 1.5-year period following a M≥5 earthquake, any subsequent nearby M≥5 earthquake almost always ruptures a fault that is loaded towards failure by the first earthquake. After this period, damaging earthquakes are equally likely to rupture loaded and relaxed faults. Our results suggest that there is a short period of time following a damaging earthquake in southern California in which simple Coulomb failure stress models could be used to identify regions of increased seismic hazard.

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Harris, R., Simpson, R. & Reasenberg, P. Influence of static stress changes on earthquake locations in southern California. Nature 375, 221–224 (1995) doi:10.1038/375221a0

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