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Earthquakes in the shadows: Why aftershocks occur at surprising locations

September 7, 2022

For decades there has been a debate about the relative effects of dynamic versus static stress triggering of aftershocks. According to the static Coulomb stress change hypothesis, aftershocks should not occur in stress shadows—regions where static Coulomb stress has been reduced. We show that static stress shadows substantially influence aftershock occurrence following three M ≥ 7 California mainshocks. Within the modeled static Coulomb stress shadows, the aftershock rate is an order of magnitude lower than in the modeled increase regions. However, the earthquake rate in the stress shadows does not decrease below the background rate, as predicted by Coulomb stress change models. Aftershocks in the stress shadows exhibit different spatial–temporal characteristics from aftershocks in the stress increase regions. The aftershock rate in the stress shadows decays as a power law with distance from the mainshock, consistent with a simple model of dynamic stress triggering. These aftershocks begin with a burst of activity during the first few days after the mainshock, also consistent with dynamic stress triggering. Our interpretation is that aftershock sequences are the combined result of static and dynamic stress triggering, with an estimated ∼34% of aftershocks due to dynamic triggering and ∼66% due to static triggering.

Publication Year 2022
Title Earthquakes in the shadows: Why aftershocks occur at surprising locations
DOI 10.1785/0320220023
Authors Jeanne L. Hardebeck, Ruth A. Harris
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Seismic Record
Index ID 70236703
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center