Multi-Fault Rupture Scenarios in the Brawley Seismic Zone

Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos, David D. Oglesby, Thomas K. Rockwell, & Aron J. Meltzner

Published 2017, SCEC Contribution #8124

Dynamic rupture complexity is strongly affected by both the geometric configuration of a network of faults and pre-stress conditions. Between those two, the geometric configuration is more likely to be anticipated prior to an event. An important factor in the unpredictability of the final rupture pattern of a group of faults is the time-dependent interaction between them. Dynamic rupture models provide a means to investigate this otherwise inscrutable processes. The Brawley Seismic Zone in Southern California is an area in which this approach might be important for inferring potential earthquake sizes and rupture patterns. Dynamic modeling can illuminate how the main faults in this area, the Southern San Andreas (SSAF) and Imperial faults, might interact with the intersecting cross faults, and how the cross faults may modulate rupture on the main faults. We perform 3D finite element modeling of potential earthquakes in this zone assuming an extended array of faults (Figure). Our results include a wide range of ruptures and fault behaviors depending on assumptions about nucleation location, geometric setup, pre-stress conditions, and locking depth. For example, in the majority of our models the cross faults do not strongly participate in the rupture process, giving the impression that they are not typically an aid or an obstacle to the rupture propagation. However, in some cases, particularly when rupture proceeds slowly on the main faults, the cross faults indeed can participate with significant slip, and can even cause rupture termination on one of the main faults. Furthermore, in a complex network of faults we should not preclude the possibility of a large event nucleating on a smaller fault (e.g. a cross fault) and eventually promoting rupture on the main structure. Recent examples include the 2010 Mw 7.1 Darfield (New Zealand) and Mw 7.2 El Mayor-Cucapah (Mexico) earthquakes, where rupture started on a smaller adjacent segment and later cascaded into a larger event. For that reason, we are investigating scenarios of a moderate rupture on a cross fault, and determining conditions under which the rupture will propagate onto the adjacent SSAF. Our investigation will provide fundamental insights that may help us interpret faulting behaviors in other areas, such as the complex Mw 7.8 2016 Kaikoura (New Zealand) earthquake.

Kyriakopoulos, C., Oglesby, D. D., Rockwell, T. K., & Meltzner, A. J. (2017). Multi-Fault Rupture Scenarios in the Brawley Seismic Zone . Oral Presentation at AGU2017.