The 1992 Landers Earthquake Sequence: Seismological Observations

Egill Hauksson, Lucile M. Jones, Kate Hutton, & Donna Eberhart-Phillips

Published 1993, SCEC Contribution #54

The (MW 6.1, 7.3, 6.2) 1992 Landers earthquakes began on April 23 with the MW 6.1 1992 Joshua Tree preshock and form the most substantial earthquake sequence to occur in California in the last 40 years. This sequence ruptured almost 100 km of both surficial and concealed faults and caused aftershocks over an area 100 km wide by 180 km long. The faulting was predominantly strike slip and three main events in the sequence had unilateral rupture to the north away from the San Andreas fault. The MW 6.1 Joshua Tree preshock at 33°N58′ and 116°W19′ on 0451 UT April 23 was preceded by a tightly clustered foreshock sequence (M≤4.6) beginning 2 hours before the mainshock and followed by a large aftershock sequence with more than 6000 aftershocks. The aftershocks extended along a northerly trend from about 10 km north of the San Andreas fault, northwest of Indio, to the east-striking Pinto Mountain fault. The Mw 7.3 Landers mainshock occurred at 34°N13′ and 116°W26′ at 1158 UT, June 28, 1992, and was preceded for 12 hours by 25 small M≤3 earthquakes at the mainshock epicenter. The distribution of more than 20,000 aftershocks, analyzed in this study, and short-period focal mechanisms illuminate a complex sequence of faulting. The aftershocks extend 60 km to the north of the mainshock epicenter along a system of at least five different surficial faults, and 40 km to the south, crossing the Pinto Mountain fault through the Joshua Tree aftershock zone towards the San Andreas fault near Indio. The rupture initiated in the depth range of 3–6 km, similar to previous M∼5 earthquakes in the region, although the maximum depth of aftershocks is about 15 km. The mainshock focal mechanism showed right-lateral strike-slip faulting with a strike of N10°W on an almost vertical fault. The rupture formed an arclike zone well defined by both surficial faulting and aftershocks, with more westerly faulting to the north. This change in strike is accomplished by jumping across dilational jogs connecting surficial faults with strikes rotated progressively to the west. A 20-km-long linear cluster of aftershocks occurred 10–20 km north of Barstow, or 30–40 km north of the end of the mainshock rupture. The most prominent off-fault aftershock cluster occurred 30 km to the west of the Landers mainshock. The largest aftershock was within this cluster, the Mw 6.2 Big Bear aftershock occurring at 34°N10′ and 116°W49′ at 1505 UT June 28. It exhibited left-lateral strike-slip faulting on a northeast striking and steeply dipping plane. The Big Bear aftershocks form a linear trend extending 20 km to the northeast with a scattered distribution to the north. The Landers mainshock occurred near the southernmost extent of the Eastern California Shear Zone, an 80-km-wide, more than 400-km-long zone of deformation. This zone extends into the Death Valley region and accommodates about 10 to 20% of the plate motion between the Pacific and North American plates. The Joshua Tree preshock, its aftershocks, and Landers aftershocks form a previously missing link that connects the Eastern California Shear Zone to the southern San Andreas fault.

Hauksson, E., Jones, L. M., Hutton, K., & Eberhart-Phillips, D. (1993). The 1992 Landers Earthquake Sequence: Seismological Observations. Journal of Geophysical Research, 98(B11), 19835-19858.