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A detailed view of the 2020-2023 southwestern Puerto Rico seismic sequence with deep learning

July 6, 2023

The 2020–2023 southwestern Puerto Rico seismic sequence, still ongoing in 2023, is remarkable for its multiple‐fault rupture complexity and elevated aftershock productivity. We applied an automatic workflow to continuous data from 43 seismic stations in Puerto Rico to build an enhanced earthquake catalog with ∼180,000 events for the 3+ yr sequence from 28 December 2019 to 1 January 2023. This workflow contained the EQTransformer (EQT) deep learning model for event detection and phase picking, the EikoNet‐Hypocenter Inversion with Stein Variational Inference probabilistic earthquake location approach with a neural network trained to solve the eikonal wave equation, and relocation with event‐pair waveform cross correlation. EQT increased the number of catalog events in the sequence by about seven times, though its performance was not quite as good as thorough analyst review. The enhanced catalog revealed new structural details of the sequence space–time evolution, including sudden changes in activity, on a complex system of many small normal and strike‐slip faults. This sequence started on 28 December 2019 with an M 4.7 strike‐slip earthquake followed by 10 days of shallow strike‐slip foreshocks, including several M 5+ earthquakes, in a compact region. The oblique normal fault Mw">Mw 6.4 mainshock then happened on 7 January 2020. Early aftershocks in January 2020, with several M 5+ earthquakes, quickly expanded into two intersecting fault zones with diffuse seismicity: one extending ∼35 km on a northward‐dipping normal fault and the other ∼60‐km‐long and oriented west‐northwest–east‐southeast on strike‐slip faults. Months to years later, aftershocks moved westward, deeper, and to outer reaches of the active fault zones, with abrupt rapid seismicity migration following larger M 4.7+ aftershocks in May, July, and December 2020. The observed seismicity evolution indicates cascading failure from stress transfer on multiple critically stressed faults. High aftershock productivity results from the complex multiple‐fault network hosting the sequence, which is characteristic of an immature fault system in the diffuse deformation zone around Puerto Rico, at the complicated North American–Caribbean plate boundary region.

Publication Year 2023
Title A detailed view of the 2020-2023 southwestern Puerto Rico seismic sequence with deep learning
DOI 10.1785/0120220229
Authors Clara Yoon, Elizabeth S. Cochran, Elizabeth A. Vanacore, Victor Huerfano, Gisela Báez-Sánchez, John D. Wilding, Jonathan D. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
Index ID 70246616
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center