Exciting news! We're transitioning to the Statewide California Earthquake Center. Our new website is under construction, but we'll continue using this website for SCEC business in the meantime. We're also archiving the Southern Center site to preserve its rich history. A new and improved platform is coming soon!

Dynamic Stress Changes During Earthquake Rupture

Steven M. Day, Guang Yu, & David J. Wald

Published April 1998, SCEC Contribution #374

We assess two competing dynamic interpretations that have been proposed for the short slip durations characteristic of kinematic earthquake models derived by inversion of earthquake waveform and geodetic data. The first interpretation would require a fault constitutive relationship in which rapid dynamic restrengthening of the fault surface occurs after passage of the rupture front, a hypothesized mechanical behavior that has been referred to as "self-healing." The second interpretation would require sufficient spatial heterogeneity of stress drop to permit rapid equilibration of elastic stresses with the residual dynamic friction level, a condition we refer to as "geometrical constraint." These interpretations imply contrasting predictions for the time dependence of the fault-plane shear stresses. We compare these predictions with dynamic shear stress changes for the 1992 Landers (M 7.3), 1994 Northridge (M 6.7), and 1995 Kobe (M 6.9) earthquakes. Stress changes are computed from kinematic slip models of these earthquakes, using a finite-difference method. For each event, static stress drop is highly variable spatially, with high stress-drop patches embedded in a background of low, and largely negative, stress drop. The time histories of stress change show predominantly monotonic stress change after passage of the rupture front, settling to a residual level, without significant evidence for dynamic restrengthening. The stress change at the rupture front is usually gradual rather than abrupt, probably reflecting the limited resolution inherent in the underlying kinematic inversions. On the basis of this analysis, as well as recent similar results obtained independently for the Kobe and Morgan Hill earthquakes, we conclude that, at the present time, the self-healing hypothesis is unnecessary to explain earthquake kinematics.

Day, S. M., Yu, G., & Wald, D. J. (1998). Dynamic Stress Changes During Earthquake Rupture. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 88(2), 512-522.