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Creep avalanches on San Andreas Fault and their underlying mechanism from 19 years of InSAR and seismicity

Mostafa Khoshmanesh, & Manoochehr Shirzaei

Published August 14, 2017, SCEC Contribution #7671, 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #088

Recent seismic and geodetic observations indicate that interseismic creep rate varies in both time and space. The spatial extent of creep determines the earthquake potential, while its temporal evolution, known as slow slip events (SSE), may trigger earthquakes. Although the conditions promoting fault creep are well-established, the mechanism for initiating self-sustaining and sometimes cyclic creep events is enigmatic. Here we investigate a time series of 19 years of surface deformation measured by radar interferometry between 1992 and 2011 along the Central San Andreas Fault (CSAF) to constrain the temporal evolution of creep. We show that the creep rate along the CSAF has a sporadic behavior, quantified with a Gumbel-like probability distribution characterized by longer tail toward the extreme positive rates, which is signature of burst-like creep dynamics. Defining creep avalanches as clusters of isolated creep with rates exceeding the shearing rate of tectonic plates, we investigate the statistical properties of their size and length. We show that, similar to the frequency-magnitude distribution of seismic events, the distribution of potency estimated for creep avalanches along the CSAF follows a power law, dictated by the distribution of their along-strike lengths. We further show that an ensemble of concurrent creep avalanches which aseismically rupture isolated fault compartments form the semi-periodic SSEs observed along the CSAF. Using a rate and state friction model, we show that normal stress is temporally variable on the fault, and support this using seismic observations. We propose that, through a self-sustaining fault-valve behavior, compaction induced elevation of pore pressure within hydraulically isolated fault compartments, and subsequent frictional dilation is the cause for the observed episodic SSEs. We further suggest that the 2004 Parkfield Mw6 earthquake may have been triggered by the SSE on adjacent creeping segment, which increased Coulomb failure stress up to 0.45 bar/yr. While creeping segments are suggested to act as barriers and arrest rupture, our study implies that SSEs on these zones may trigger seismic events on adjacent locked parts.

Key Words
Slow slip events, San Andreas Fault, Creeping segment, Creep avalanches, Fault mechanism, InSAR

Khoshmanesh, M., & Shirzaei, M. (2017, 08). Creep avalanches on San Andreas Fault and their underlying mechanism from 19 years of InSAR and seismicity. Poster Presentation at 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Tectonic Geodesy