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Limitations of rupture forecasting exposed by instantaneously triggered earthquake doublet

Nature Geoscience volume 9, pages 330336 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Earthquake hazard assessments and rupture forecasts are based on the potential length of seismic rupture and whether or not slip is arrested at fault segment boundaries. Such forecasts do not generally consider that one earthquake can trigger a second large event, near-instantaneously, at distances greater than a few kilometres. Here we present a geodetic and seismological analysis of a magnitude 7.1 intracontinental earthquake that occurred in Pakistan in 1997. We find that the earthquake, rather than a single event as hitherto assumed, was in fact an earthquake doublet: initial rupture on a shallow, blind reverse fault was followed just 19 s later by a second rupture on a separate reverse fault 50 km away. Slip on the second fault increased the total seismic moment by half, and doubled both the combined event duration and the area of maximum ground shaking. We infer that static Coulomb stresses at the initiation location of the second earthquake were probably reduced as a result of the first. Instead, we suggest that a dynamic triggering mechanism is likely, although the responsible seismic wave phase is unclear. Our results expose a flaw in earthquake rupture forecasts that disregard cascading, multiple-fault ruptures of this type.

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Acknowledgements

This work is supported by the UK Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) through the Looking Inside the Continents project (NE/K011006/1), the Earthquake without Frontiers project (EwF_NE/J02001X/1_1) and the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET). The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Data Management Center is funded through the Seismological Facilities for the Advancement of Geoscience and EarthScope (SAGE) Proposal of the National Science Foundation (EAR-1261681). We are grateful to E. Bergman for guidance in earthquake relocations, and K. McMullan and A. Rickerby for their assistance with preliminary InSAR and body waveform modelling.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines, 1500 Illinois Street, Golden, Colorado 80401, USA

    • E. Nissen
  2. COMET, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK

    • J. R. Elliott
    • , R. A. Sloan
    •  & B. E. Parsons
  3. Department of Geological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa

    • R. A. Sloan
  4. COMET, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

    • T. J. Craig
    •  & T. J. Wright
  5. Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA

    • G. J. Funning
  6. Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Data Management Center, 1408 NE 45th Street, Suite 201, Seattle, Washington 98105, USA

    • A. Hutko

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Contributions

InSAR analysis and accompanying Coulomb modelling were undertaken by E.N. and J.R.E. Seismological analyses were led by R.A.S. (calibrated multi-event relocation), A.H. (seismic back-projection) and E.N. (body waveform modelling). All authors contributed to the interpretation of results and E.N. wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to E. Nissen.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2653

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