Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A slow earthquake sequence on the San Andreas fault

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Kanamori, H. & Cipar, J. Phys. Earth Planet. Int. 9, 127–136 (1974).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Kanamori, H. & Anderson, D. L. J. Geophys. Res. 80, 1075–1078 (1975).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Cifuentes, I. L. & Silver, P. G. J. Geophys. Res. 94, 643–663 (1989).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Linde, A. T. & Silver, P. G. Geophys. Res. Lett. 16, 1305–1308 (1989).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Sacks, I. S., Suyehiro, S., Linde, A, T. & Snoke, J. A. Nature 275, 599–602 (1978).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Sacks, I. S., Linde, A. T., Snoke, J. A. & Suyehiro, S. Earthquake Prediction: An International Review Maurice Ewing Ser. Vol. 4 (eds Simpson, B. W. & Richards, P. G.) 617–628 (AGU, Washington DC, 1981).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Sacks, I. S., Linde, A. T., Snoke, J. A. & Suyehiro, S. Tectonophys. 81, 311–318 (1982).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Beroza, G. C. & Jordan, T. H. J. Geophys. Res. 95, 2485–2510 (1990).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Ihmle, P. F. & Jordan, T. H. Science 266, 1547–1551 (1994).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Satake, K. & Kanamori, H. J. Geophys. Res. 82, 5692–5697 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Kanamori, H. & Kikuchi, M. Nature 361, 714–716 (1993).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Kawasaki, I. et al. J. Phys. Earth 43, 105–116 (1995).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Gladwin, M. T., Gwyther, R. L., Hart, R. H. G. & Breckenridge, K. J. Geophys. Res. 99, 4559–4565 (1994).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Kato, K., Kusunose, K., Yamamoto, K. & Hirasawa, T. J. Phys. Earth 39, 461–476 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Dieterich, J. H. & Kilgore, B. D. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 93, 3787–3794 (1996).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Sacks, I. S., Suyehiro, S., Evertson, D. W. & Yamagishi, Y. Pap. Meteorol. Geophys. 22, 195–207 (1971).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gladwin, M. T. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 55, 2011–2016 (1984).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Silverman, S., Mortensen, C. & Johnston, M. J. S. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 79, 189–198 (1989).

    Google Scholar 

  19. Behr, J., Bilham, R., Bodin, P., Burford, R. O. & Burgmann, R. Geophys. Res. Lett. 17, 1445–1448 (1990).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Duffield, W. A. & Burford, R. O. J. Res. U. S. Geol. Surv. 1, 569–577 (1973).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Ishiguro, M., Sato, T., Tamura, Y. & Ooe, M. Proc. Inst. of Stat. Math. 32, 71–85 (1984).

    Google Scholar 

  22. Sato, T. & Hanada, H. Publ. Int. Latitude Observ., Mizusawa 18, 29–47 (1984).

    Google Scholar 

  23. Johnston, M. J. S., McHugh, S. & Burford, R. O. Nature 260, 691–693 (1976).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Goulty, N. R. & Gilman, R. J. Geophys. Res. 83, 5415–5419 (1978).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Ruina, A. J. Geophys. Res. 88, 10359–10370 (1983).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Okada, Y. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 82, 1018–1040 (1992).

    Google Scholar 

  27. Bodin, P. & Bilham, R. U. S. Gol. Survey Prof. Pap. (1550-F) 91–101 (1994).

    Google Scholar 

  28. Jaume, S. C. & Sykes, L. R. J. Geophys. Res. 101, 765–789 (1996).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Linde, A., Gladwin, M., Johnston, M. et al. A slow earthquake sequence on the San Andreas fault. Nature 383, 65–68 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1038/383065a0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

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

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing