Applying Depth Distribution of Seismicity to Determine Thermo-Mechanical Properties of the Seismogenic Crust in Southern California: Comparing Lithotectonic Blocks

Egill Hauksson, & Men-Andrin Meier

Published September 3, 2018, SCEC Contribution #8085

We analyze waveform-relocated seismicity (1981-2016) and other geophysical and geological datasets from 16 lithotectonic crustal blocks in southern California. We explore how earthquake depth histograms (EDH) are related to crustal strength, lithology, and temperature of the crust. First, we calculate relative EDHs to quantify the depth distribution of seismicity for each lithotectonic block. Second, we calculate depth profiles of maximum differential stress ("yield strength envelopes", YSEs) using Byerlee’s law and a non-linear dislocation creep law. We use observed average heat flows, strain rates, and states of stress to parameterize YSEs for five different crustal candidate lithologies in each lithotectonic block. We assume that seismicity ceases where the mechanical rock strength falls below a critical threshold level and identify the YSEs that best predict the depth extent of seismicity in each block. The lithologies of the best matching YSEs are found to agree well with expectations from past tectonics: they are mostly quartz-dominated except for the feldspar-rich diorite lithologies in the Great Valley, the southernmost western Sierra Nevada, Inner Continental Borderland, and Rifted crust in the Salton Trough. Similarly, the inferred thermo-mechanical properties, including differential stress, lithology, and geotherms reflect the previously mapped tectonic variability between the 16 lithotectonic blocks. In general, the differential yield stress is smaller and peaks at a shallower depth in hotter and more quartz rich crust but is larger and peaks at greater depths for colder and predominantly diorite crust. The good agreement between the modeled YSEs, the EDHs and tectonic considerations suggests that EDHs indeed reflect long-term geophysical properties of the crust and can be used to infer thermo-mechanical properties at depth. In contrast, shallow seismicity may be more likely to reflect short-term strain transients from fluid flow or recent anthropogenic disturbances.

Citation
Hauksson, E., & Meier, M. (2018). Applying Depth Distribution of Seismicity to Determine Thermo-Mechanical Properties of the Seismogenic Crust in Southern California: Comparing Lithotectonic Blocks. Pure and Applied Geophysics,. doi: 10.1007/s00024-018-1981-z.