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Triggering of repeating earthquakes in central California

March 24, 2014

Dynamic stresses carried by transient seismic waves have been found capable of triggering earthquakes instantly in various tectonic settings. Delayed triggering may be even more common, but the mechanisms are not well understood. Catalogs of repeating earthquakes, earthquakes that recur repeatedly at the same location, provide ideal data sets to test the effects of transient dynamic perturbations on the timing of earthquake occurrence. Here we employ a catalog of 165 families containing ~2500 total repeating earthquakes to test whether dynamic perturbations from local, regional, and teleseismic earthquakes change recurrence intervals. The distance to the earthquake generating the perturbing waves is a proxy for the relative potential contributions of static and dynamic deformations, because static deformations decay more rapidly with distance. Clear changes followed the nearby 2004 Mw6 Parkfield earthquake, so we study only repeaters prior to its origin time. We apply a Monte Carlo approach to compare the observed number of shortened recurrence intervals following dynamic perturbations with the distribution of this number estimated for randomized perturbation times. We examine the comparison for a series of dynamic stress peak amplitude and distance thresholds. The results suggest a weak correlation between dynamic perturbations in excess of ~20 kPa and shortened recurrence intervals, for both nearby and remote perturbations.