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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Aftershock Sequences Modeled with 3-D Stress Heterogeneity and Rate-State Seismicity Equations: Implications for Crustal Stress Estimation

  • Author(s): Smith, Deborah Elaine
  • Dieterich, James H.
  • et al.

In this paper, we present a model for studying aftershock sequences that integrates Coulomb static stress change analysis, seismicity equations based on rate-state friction nucleation of earthquakes, slip of geometrically complex faults, and fractal-like, spatially heterogeneous models of crustal stress. In addition to modeling instantaneous aftershock seismicity rate patterns with initial clustering on the Coulomb stress increase areas and an approximately 1/t diffusion back to the pre-mainshock background seismicity, the simulations capture previously unmodeled effects. These include production of a significant number of aftershocks in the traditional Coulomb stress shadow zones and temporal changes in aftershock focal mechanism statistics. The occurrence of aftershock stress shadow zones arises from two sources. The first source is spatially heterogeneous initial crustal stress, and the second is slip on geometrically rough faults, which produces localized positive Coulomb stress changes within the traditional stress shadow zones. Temporal changes in simulated aftershock focal mechanisms result in inferred stress rotations that greatly exceed the true stress rotations due to the main shock, even for a moderately strong crust (mean stress 50 MPa) when stress is spatially heterogeneous. This arises from biased sampling of the crustal stress by the synthetic aftershocks due to the non-linear dependence of seismicity rates on stress changes. The model indicates that one cannot use focal mechanism inversion rotations to conclusively demonstrate low crustal strength (≤10 MPa); therefore, studies of crustal strength following a stress perturbation may significantly underestimate the mean crustal stress state for regions with spatially heterogeneous stress.

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