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The effect of stress changes on time-dependent earthquake probabilities for the central Wasatch Fault Zone, Utah, USA

July 25, 2019

Static and quasi-static Coulomb stress changes produced by large earthquakes can modify the probability of occurrence of subsequent events on neighboring faults. This approach is based on physical (Coulomb stress changes) and statistical (probability calculations) models, which are influenced by the quality and quantity of data available in the study region. Here, we focus on the Wasatch Fault Zone (WFZ), a well-studied active normal fault system having abundant geologic and paleoseismological data. Paleoseismological trench investigations of the WFZ indicate that at least 24 large, surface-faulting earthquakes have ruptured the fault’s five central, 35–59-km long segments since ~7 ka. Our goal is to determine if the stress changes due to the youngest paleoevents have significantly modified the present-day probability of occurrence of large earthquakes on each of the segments. For each segment, we modeled the cumulative (coseismic + postseismic) Coulomb stress changes (∆CFScum) due to earthquakes younger than the most recent event on the segment in question and applied the resulting values to the time-dependent probability calculations. Results from the Coulomb stress modeling suggest that the Brigham City, Salt Lake City, and Provo segments have accumulated ∆CFScum larger than 10 bars, whereas the Weber segment has experienced a stress decrease of 5 bars, in the scenario of recent rupture of the Great Salt Lake fault to the west. Probability calculations predict high probability of occurrence for the Brigham City and Salt Lake City segments, due to their long elapsed times (>1-2 ka) when compared to the Weber, Provo, and Nephi segments (< 1 ka). The range of calculated coefficients of variation (CV) has a large influence on the final probabilities, mostly in the case of the Brigham City segment. Finally, when the Coulomb stress and the probability models are combined, our results indicate that the ∆CFScum resulting from earthquakes postdating the youngest events on each of the five segments significantly affects the probability calculations for three of the segments: Brigham City, Salt Lake City, and Provo. The probability of occurrence of a large earthquake in the next 50 years on these three segments may therefore be underestimated if a time-independent approach, or a time-dependent approach that does not consider ∆CFS, is adopted.

Publication Year 2019
Title The effect of stress changes on time-dependent earthquake probabilities for the central Wasatch Fault Zone, Utah, USA
DOI 10.1093/gji/ggz336
Authors A. Verdecchia, S. Carena, B. Pace, Christopher DuRoss
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geophysical Journal International
Index ID 70207453
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center