Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Fault roughness at seismogenic depths and links to earthquake behavior

March 17, 2023

Fault geometry affects the initiation, propagation, and cessation of earthquake rupture, as well as, potentially, the statistical behavior of earthquake sequences. We analyze 18,250 (−0.27 < M < 4.4) earthquakes of the 2016–2019 Cahuilla, California, swarm and, for the first time, use these high‐resolution earthquake locations to map, in detail, the roughness across an active fault surface at depth. We find that the strike‐slip fault is 50% rougher in the slip‐perpendicular direction than parallel to slip. 3D mapping of fault roughness at seismogenic depths suggests that roughness varies by a factor of 8 for length scales of 1 km. We observe that the largest earthquake (M 4.4) occurred where there is significant fault complexity and the highest measured roughness. We also find that b‐values are weakly positively correlated with fault roughness. Following the largest earthquake, we observe a distinct population of earthquakes with comparatively low b‐values occurring in an area of high roughness within the rupture area of the M 4.4 earthquake. Finally, we measure roughness at multiple scales and find that the fault is self‐affine with a Hurst exponent of 0.52, consistent with a Brownian surface.

Publication Year 2023
Title Fault roughness at seismogenic depths and links to earthquake behavior
DOI 10.1785/0320220043
Authors Elizabeth S. Cochran, Morgan T. Page, Nicholas van der Elst, Zachary E. Ross, Daniel T. Trugman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Seismic Record
Index ID 70241609
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center