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Fast rupture of the 2009 Mw 6.9 Canal de Ballenas earthquake in the Gulf of California dynamically triggers seismicity in California

February 14, 2022

In the Gulf of California, Mexico, the relative motion across the North America-Pacific boundary is accommodated by a series of marine transform faults and spreading centers. About 40 M>6 earthquakes have occurred in the region since 1960. On 3 August 2009, an Mw 6.9 earthquake occurred near Canal de Ballenas in the region. The earthquake was a strike-slip event with a shallow hypocenter that is likely close to the seafloor. In contrast to an adjacent M7 earthquake, this earthquake triggered a ground-motion-based earthquake early warning algorithm being tested in southern California (∼600 km away). This observation suggests that the abnormally large ground motions and dynamic strains observed for this earthquake relate to its rupture properties. To investigate this possibility, we image the rupture process and resolve the slip distribution of the event using a P-wave back-projection approach and a teleseismic, finite-fault inversion method. Results from these two independent analyses indicate a relatively simple, unilateral rupture propagation directed along-strike in the northward direction. However, the average rupture speed is estimated around 4 km/s, suggesting a possible supershear rupture. The supershear speed is also supported by a Rayleigh wave Mach cone analysis, although uncertainties in local velocity structure preclude a definitive conclusion. The Canal de Ballenas earthquake dynamically triggered seismicity at multiple sites in California, with triggering response characteristics varying from location-to-location. For instance, some of the triggered earthquakes in California occurred up to 24 hours later, suggesting that nonlinear triggering mechanisms likely have modulated their occurrence.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Fast rupture of the 2009 Mw 6.9 Canal de Ballenas earthquake in the Gulf of California dynamically triggers seismicity in California
DOI 10.1093/gji/ggac059
Authors Wenyuan Fan, Ryo Okuwaki, Andrew Barbour, Yihe Huang, Guoqing Lin, Elizabeth S. Cochran
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geophysical Journal International
Index ID 70228579
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center