Can tectonic loading be observed as interseismic stress rotation?

Jeanne L. Hardebeck

Published July 28, 2016, SCEC Contribution #6391, 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #014

The shear stress on major faults evolves through the seismic cycle, due to tectonic stress loading, coseismic stress release, and earthquake stress transfer. If the seismic cycle stresses are small compared to the background differential stress, the stress orientations should not change during the seismic cycle. However, observed coseismic stress rotations imply that the stress drop is on the order of the differential stress. The coseismic stress rotations suggest that the stress rotates back during the rest of the seismic cycle as the fault is reloaded, raising the possibility that monitoring interseismic stress changes could inform earthquake hazard assessment. I test whether observable interseismic stress rotations in southern California are consistent with tectonic loading. I invert the focal mechanism catalog of Yang et al (BSSA, 2012) for stress orientations in 4 time periods, and look for significant changes in the direction of the maximum horizontal stress axis, SHmax. For a simple loading model, increased shear stress on strike-slip faults should correspond to SHmax rotating towards a 45° angle to the fault strike. For the San Andreas, San Jacinto, Elsinore, and Garlock faults, however, >40% of sample points along the fault experience SHmax rotating away from 45°. To better account for the complexity of loading of the fault system, I compute the SHmax rotation directions predicted by the SCEC Community Stress Model (CSM). I add 33 years of loading from a stressing rate model to a stress model, for different pairs of CSM models, and compute the direction of SHmax rotation. Most pairs of models exhibit similar patterns of SHmax rotation, featuring counter-clockwise rotations centered along the major faults. The observed rotations, in both directions, do not qualitatively match these predicted patterns. I conclude that the interseismic tectonic stress loading in southern California is not detectable, at least over the 33-year time period of the mechanism catalog.

Key Words
crustal stress, tectonic loading

Hardebeck, J. L. (2016, 07). Can tectonic loading be observed as interseismic stress rotation?. Poster Presentation at 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Stress and Deformation Over Time (SDOT)