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The 2020 Westmorland, California earthquake swarm as aftershocks of a slow slip event sustained by fluid flow

November 10, 2022

Swarms are bursts of earthquakes without an obvious mainshock. Some have been observed to be associated with transient aseismic fault slip, while others are thought to be related to fluids. However, the association is rarely quantitative due to insufficient data quality. We use high-quality GPS/GNSS, InSAR, and relocated seismicity to study a swarm of >2,000 earthquakes which occurred between 30 September and 6 October 2020, near Westmorland, California. Using 5 min sampled Global Positioning System (GPS) supplemented with InSAR, we document a spontaneous shallow Mw 5.2 slow slip event that preceded the swarm by 2–15 hr. The earthquakes in the early phase were predominantly non-interacting and driven primarily by the slow slip event resulting in a nonlinear expansion. A stress-driven model based on the rate-and-state friction successfully explains the overall spatial and temporal evolution of earthquakes, including the time lag between the onset of the slow slip event and the swarm. Later, a distinct back front and a square root of time expansion of clustered seismicity on en-echelon fault structures suggest that fluids helped sustain the swarm. Static stress triggering analysis using Coulomb stress and statistics of interevent times suggest that 45%–65% of seismicity was driven by the slow slip event, 10%–35% by inter-earthquake interactions, and 10%–30% by fluids. Our model also provides constraints on the friction parameter and the pore pressure and suggests that this swarm behaved like an aftershock sequence but with the mainshock replaced by the slow slip event.

Publication Year 2022
Title The 2020 Westmorland, California earthquake swarm as aftershocks of a slow slip event sustained by fluid flow
DOI 10.1029/2022JB024693
Authors K. Sirorattanakul, Z.E. Ross, M. Khoshmanesh, Elizabeth S. Cochran, M. Acosta, J.-P. Avouac
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research
Index ID 70240115
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center