Migration of early aftershocks following the 2004 Parkfield earthquake


Large shallow earthquakes are immediately followed by numerous aftershocks. A significant portion of these events is missing in existing earthquake catalogues, mainly because seismicity after the mainshock can be masked by overlapping arrivals of waves from the mainshock and aftershocks1,2,3,4. However, recovery of the missing early aftershocks is important for understanding the physical mechanisms of earthquake triggering2,3,4, and for tracking postseismic deformation around the rupture zone associated with the mainshock5,6,7. Here we use the waveforms of 3,647 relocated earthquakes8 along the Parkfield section of the San Andreas fault as templates9,10 to detect missing aftershocks within three days of the 2004 magnitude 6.0 Parkfield earthquake. We identify 11 times more aftershocks than listed in the standard catalogue of the Northern California Seismic Network. We find that the newly detected aftershocks migrate in both along-strike and down-dip directions with logarithmic time since the mainshock, consistent with numerical simulations of the expansion of aftershocks caused by propagating afterslip11,12. The cumulative number of early aftershocks increases linearly with postseismic deformation in the first two days, supporting the view that aftershocks are driven primarily by afterslip13,14.

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Figure 1: Map of the SAF and the 2004 Parkfield earthquake sequence.
Figure 2: Example of a detected early aftershock.
Figure 3: Migration of the Parkfield early aftershocks.


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The seismic data used in this study are recorded by the HRSN operated by Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, and are distributed by the Northern California Earthquake Data Center (NCEDC). We thank D. Shelly, K. Koper and C. Wu for their help in generating Supplementary Movies, N. Kato for sharing the results from the numerical simulation in the Kato12 paper, S. Barbot, K. Johnson, P.-C. Liu and J. Murray-Moraleda for sharing their mainshock slip inversion and afterslip models, and J. Savage for sharing the data from the principal component analysis in the Savage and Langbein26 paper. The manuscript benefited from useful comments by J.-P. Avouac, R. Bergmann, B. Enescu, H. Houston, K. Johnson, N. Kato, O. Lengline, J. Savage, D. Shelly and J. Vidale. This work is supported by the USGS NEHRP program G09AP00114.

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Z.P. designed the project; Z.P. and P.Z. carried out the data analysis; Z.P. wrote the manuscript with contributions from P.Z.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zhigang Peng.

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Peng, Z., Zhao, P. Migration of early aftershocks following the 2004 Parkfield earthquake. Nature Geosci 2, 877–881 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo697

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