A New Technique to Calculate Earthquake Stress Transfer and to Probe the Physics of Aftershocks

Margarita Segou, & Tom Parsons

Published February 11, 2020, SCEC Contribution #10816

Coseismic stress changes have been the primary physical principle used to explain aftershocks and triggered earthquakes. However, this method does not adequately forecast earthquake rates and diverse rupture populations when subjected to formal testing. We show that earthquake forecasts can be impaired by assumptions made in physics‐based models such as the existence of hypothetical optimal faults and regional scale invariability of the stress field. We compare calculations made under these assumptions along with different realizations of a new conceptual triggering model that features a complete assay of all possible ruptures. In this concept, there always exists a set of theoretical planes that has positive failure stress conditions under a combination of background and coseismic static stress change. In the Earth, all of these theoretical planes may not exist, and if they do, they may not be ready to fail. Thus, the actual aftershock plane may not correspond to the plane with the maximum stress change value. This is consistent with observations that mainshocks commonly activate faults with exotic orientations and rakes. Our testing ground is the M7.2, 2010 El Mayor–Cucapah earthquake sequence that activated multiple diverse fault populations across the United States–Mexico border in California and Baja California. We carry out a retrospective test involving 748 M3.0+ triggered earthquakes that occurred during a 3 yr period after the mainshock. We find that a probabilistic expression of possible aftershock planes constrained by premainshock rupture patterns is strongly favored (89% of aftershocks consistent with static stress triggering) versus an optimal fault implementation (35% consistent). Results show that coseismic stress change magnitudes do not necessarily control earthquake triggering, instead we find that the summed background stress and coseismic stress change promotes diverse ruptures. Our model can thus explain earthquake triggering in regions where optimal plane mapping shows coseismic stress reduction.

Segou, M., & Parsons, T. (2020). A New Technique to Calculate Earthquake Stress Transfer and to Probe the Physics of Aftershocks. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 110(2), 863-873. doi: 10.1785/0120190033.