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A slow earthquake sequence on the San Andreas fault

Nature volume 383, pages 6568 (05 September 1996) | Download Citation

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Abstract

EARTHQUAKES typically release stored strain energy on timescales of the order of seconds, limited by the velocity of sound in rock. Over the past 20 years, observations1–13 and laboratory experiments14 have indicated that rupture can also occur more slowly, with durations up to hours. Such events may be important in earthquake nucleation15 and in accounting for the excess of plate convergence over seismic slip in subduction zones. The detection of events with larger timescales requires near-field deformation measurements. In December 1992, two borehole strainmeters close to the San Andreas fault in California recorded a slow strain event of about a week in duration, and we show here that the strain changes were produced by a slow earthquake sequence (equivalent magnitude 4.8) with complexity similar to that of regular earthquakes. The largest earthquakes associated with these slow events were small (local magnitude 3.7) and contributed negligible strain release. The importance of slow earthquakes in the seismogenic process remains an open question, but these observations extend the observed timescale for slow events by two orders of magnitude.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 5241 Broad Branch Road NW, Washington DC 20015, USA

    • Alan T. Linde
  2. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Queensland Center for Advanced Technologies, 2643 Moggill Road, Pinjarra Hills, Queensland 4069, Australia

    • Michael T. Gladwin
    •  & Ross L. Gwyther
  3. US Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

    • Malcolm J. S. Johnston
  4. Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309–0216, USA

    • Roger G. Bilham

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https://doi.org/10.1038/383065a0

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