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A Unified Model of Crustal Stress Heterogeneity From Borehole Breakouts and Earthquake Focal Mechanisms

Karen Luttrell, & Jeanne Hardebeck

Published February 5, 2021, SCEC Contribution #10303

Observations of crustal stress orientation from the regional inversion of earthquake focal mechanisms often conflict with those from borehole breakouts, possibly indicating local stress heterogeneity, either laterally or with depth. To investigate this heterogeneity, we compiled SHmax estimates from previous studies for 57 near-vertical boreholes with measured breakout azimuths across the Los Angeles region. We identified subsets of earthquake focal mechanisms from established earthquake catalogs centered around each borehole with various criteria for maximum depth and maximum lateral distance from the borehole. Each subset was independently inverted for 3-D stress orientation and corresponding SHmax probability distributions, then compared with the associated borehole breakout-derived estimate. We find good agreement when both methods sample the basement stress (breakouts are close to the sediment-basement interface), or when both methods sample the mid-basin stress (sufficient earthquakes are present within a sedimentary basin). Along sedimentary basin margins, in contrast, we find acceptable agreement only when focal mechanisms are limited to shallow and close earthquakes, implying short-length-scale heterogeneity of < 20 km. While the region as a whole shows evidence of both lateral and vertical stress orientation heterogeneity, we find a more homogeneous stress state within basement rock, over length scales of 1 – 35 km. These results reconcile the apparently conflicting observations of short-length-scale heterogeneity observed in boreholes, which sample primarily the basins, with the relative homogeneity of stress inferred from focal mechanisms, which sample primarily the basement, and imply distinct regimes for the appropriate use of each type of stress indicator.

Luttrell, K., & Hardebeck, J. (2021). A Unified Model of Crustal Stress Heterogeneity From Borehole Breakouts and Earthquake Focal Mechanisms. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 126(2). doi: 10.1029/2020JB020817.