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A Stress-Similarity Triggering Model for Aftershocks of the Mw 6.4 and 7.1 Ridgecrest Earthquakes

Jeanne L. Hardebeck

Published June 2, 2020, SCEC Contribution #10118

The July 2019 Mw 6.4 and 7.1 Ridgecrest earthquakes triggered numerous aftershocks, including clusters of off‐fault aftershocks in an extensional stepover of the Garlock fault, near the town of Olancha, and near Panamint Valley. The locations of the off‐fault aftershocks are consistent with the stress‐similarity model of triggering, which hypothesizes that aftershocks preferentially occur in areas where the mainshock static stress change tensor is similar in orientation to the background stress tensor. The background stress field is determined from the inversion of earthquake focal mechanisms, with the spatial resolution adapted to the local density of earthquakes. The mainshock static stress change is computed using finite‐source models for the Mw 6.4 foreshock and Mw 7.1 mainshock. I quantify the similarity between these two stress fields using the tensor dot product of the normalized deviatoric stress tensors. The off‐fault aftershocks in the Garlock stepover and the Olancha area fall within lobes of positive stress similarity, whereas the aftershocks near Panamint Valley are partially within a lobe. The cluster in the Garlock fault stepover and the smaller of two clusters near Olancha occur in regions of locally anomalous background stress that results in higher stress similarity. I compute the spatial density of M≥2.0 aftershocks and find that the aftershock density increases as a function of stress similarity, with a factor of ∼15 difference between high stress‐similarity and low stress‐similarity areas. This result is robust with respect to the choice of mainshock model and the uncertainty of the background stress field. The aftershock density varies substantially inside the high stress‐similarity lobes, however, indicating that other variable background conditions, such as material properties, temperature, and fluid pressure, may also be playing a role. Specifically, temperature and fluid pressure conditions might help explain the low rate of aftershocks in the Coso geothermal field.

Hardebeck, J. L. (2020). A Stress-Similarity Triggering Model for Aftershocks of the Mw 6.4 and 7.1 Ridgecrest Earthquakes. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 110(4), 1716–1727. doi: 10.1785/0120200015.