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A Selective Phenomenology of the Seismicity of Southern California

Leon Knopoff

Published April 30, 1996, SCEC Contribution #322

Predictions of earthquakes that are based on observations of precursory seismicity cannot depend on the average properties of the seismicity, such as the Gutenberg-Richter (G-R) distribution. Instead it must depend on the fluctuations in seismicity. We summarize the observational data of the fluctuations of seismicity in space, in time, and in a coupled space-time regime over the past 60 yr in Southern California, to provide a basis for determining whether these fluctuations are correlated with the times and locations of future strong earthquakes in an appropriate time- and space-scale. The simple extrapolation of the G-R distribution must lead to an overestimate of the risk due to large earthquakes. There may be two classes of earthquakes: the small earthquakes that satisfy the G-R law and the larger and large ones. Most observations of fluctuations of seismicity are of the rate of occurrence of smaller earthquakes. Large earthquakes are observed to be preceded by significant quiescence on the faults on which they occur and by an intensification of activity at distance. It is likely that the fluctuations are due to the nature of fractures on individual faults of the network of faults. There are significant inhomogeneities on these faults, which we assume will have an important influence on the nature of self-organization of seismicity. The principal source of the inhomogeneity on the large scale is the influence of geometry---i.e., of the nonplanarity of faults and the system of faults.

Knopoff, L. (1996). A Selective Phenomenology of the Seismicity of Southern California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 93(9), 3756-3763.