High Resolution Long-Term and Short-Term Earthquake Forecasts for California

Maximilian J. Werner, Agnes Helmstetter, David D. Jackson, & Yan Y. Kagan

Published 2011, SCEC Contribution #1435

We present two models for estimating the probabilities of future earthquakes in California, to be tested in the Collaboratory for the Study of Earthquake Predictability (CSEP). The first, time-independent model, modified from Helmstetter et al (2007), provides five-year forecasts for magnitudes m > 4.95. We show that large quakes occur on average near the locations of small m > 2 events, so that a high-resolution estimate of the spatial distribution of future large quakes is obtained from the locations of the numerous small events. We employ an adaptive spatial kernel of optimized bandwidth and assume a universal, tapered Gutenberg-Richter distribution. In retrospective tests, we show that no Poisson forecast could capture the observed variability. We therefore also test forecasts using a negative binomial distribution for the number of events. We modify existing likelihood-based tests to better evaluate the spatial forecast. Our time-dependent model, an Epidemic Type Aftershock Sequence (ETAS) model modified from Helmstetter et al (2007), provides next-day forecasts for m > 3.95. The forecasted rate is the sum of a background rate, proportional to our time-independent model, and of the triggered events due to all prior earthquakes. Each earthquake triggers events with a rate that increases exponentially with its magnitude and decays in time according to Omori's law. An isotropic kernel models the spatial density of aftershocks for small (< 5.5) events. For larger quakes, we smooth early aftershocks to forecast later events. We estimate parameters by optimizing retrospective forecasts. Our short-term model realizes a gain of about 6.0 over the time-independent model.

Werner, M. J., Helmstetter, A., Jackson, D. D., & Kagan, Y. Y. (2011). High Resolution Long-Term and Short-Term Earthquake Forecasts for California. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 101(4), 1630-1648. doi: 10.1785/0120090340.