Letter | Published:

Common dependence on stress for the two fundamental laws of statistical seismology

Nature volume 462, pages 642645 (03 December 2009) | Download Citation

Abstract

Two of the long-standing relationships of statistical seismology are power laws: the Gutenberg–Richter relation1 describing the earthquake frequency–magnitude distribution, and the Omori–Utsu law2 characterizing the temporal decay of aftershock rate following a main shock. Recently, the effect of stress on the slope (the b value) of the earthquake frequency–magnitude distribution was determined3 by investigations of the faulting-style dependence of the b value. In a similar manner, we study here aftershock sequences according to the faulting style of their main shocks. We show that the time delay before the onset of the power-law aftershock decay rate (the c value) is on average shorter for thrust main shocks than for normal fault earthquakes, taking intermediate values for strike-slip events. These similar dependences on the faulting style indicate that both of the fundamental power laws are governed by the state of stress. Focal mechanisms are known for only 2 per cent of aftershocks. Therefore, c and b values are independent estimates and can be used as new tools to infer the stress field, which remains difficult to measure directly.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (UMR 7154, CNRS, Univ. P7), 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France

    • Clément Narteau
    • , Svetlana Byrdina
    •  & Peter Shebalin
  2. Laboratoire de Géophysique Interne et Tectonophysique, UMR 5559, CNRS, Université de Savoie, IRD, 73376 Le Bourget-du-Lac Cedex, France

    • Svetlana Byrdina
  3. International Institute of Earthquake Prediction Theory and Mathematical Geophysics, 84/32 Profsouznaya, Moscow 117997, Russia

    • Peter Shebalin
  4. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, 3651 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA

    • Danijel Schorlemmer

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Correspondence to Clément Narteau.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Notes and Data, Supplementary Figures 1- 17 with Legends, Supplementary Table 1 and Supplementary References.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature08553

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