Are the Stress Drops of Small Earthquakes Good Predictors of the Stress Drops of Larger Earthquakes?

Jeanne L. Hardebeck

Submitted July 26, 2017, SCEC Contribution #7345, 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #050

Uncertainty in PSHA could be reduced through better estimates of stress drop for possible future large earthquakes. Studies of small earthquakes find spatial variability in stress drop; if large earthquakes have similar spatial patterns, their stress drops may be better predicted using the stress drops of small local events. This regionalization implies the variance with respect to the local mean stress drop may be smaller than the variance with respect to the global mean. I test this idea using the Shearer et al. (2006) stress drop catalog for M1.5-3.1 events in southern California. I apply quality control (Hauksson, 2015) and remove near-field aftershocks (Wooddell & Abrahamson, 2014). The standard deviation of the distribution of the log10 stress drop is reduced from 0.45 (factor of ~3) to 0.31 (factor of ~2) by normalizing each event’s stress drop by the local mean. I explore whether a similar variance reduction is possible when using the Shearer catalog to predict stress drops of larger southern California events. For catalogs of moderate-sized events (e.g. Kanamori, 1993; Mayeda & Walter, 1996; Boyd, 2017), normalizing by the Shearer catalog’s local mean stress drop does not reduce the standard deviation compared to the unmodified stress drops. I compile stress drops of larger events from the literature, and identify 15 M5.5-7.5 earthquakes with at least three estimates. Because of the wide range of stress drop estimates for each event, and the different techniques and assumptions, it is difficult to assign a single stress drop value to each event. Instead, I compare the distributions of stress drop estimates for pairs of events, and test whether the means of the distributions are statistically significantly different. The events divide into 3 categories: low, medium, and high stress drop, with significant differences in mean stress drop between events in the low and the high stress drop categories. I test whether the spatial patterns of the Shearer catalog stress drops can predict the categories of the 15 events. I find that they cannot, rather the large event stress drops are uncorrelated with the local mean stress drop from the Shearer catalog. These results imply that the regionalization of stress drops of small events does not extend to the larger events, at least with current standard techniques of stress drop estimation.

Key Words
stress drop

Hardebeck, J. L. (2017, 07). Are the Stress Drops of Small Earthquakes Good Predictors of the Stress Drops of Larger Earthquakes?. Poster Presentation at 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups