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Earthquake Source Characterization Essay


In this thesis, I present a series of works on the characterization of source properties and physical mechanisms of various small to moderate earthquakes through both observational and numerical approaches. From the results, we find implications on a broader scheme of topics relating to larger earthquakes, shear zone structure, frictional properties of faults, and seismic hazard assessment.

Part I consists of two studies using waveform modeling. In Chapter 2, we present an in-depth study of a series of intraslab earthquakes that occurred in a localized region near the downdip edge of the 2011 Mw Tohoku-Oki megathrust earthquake. By refining source parameters of selected events, simulating their rupture properties and comparing their mechanisms to stress changes caused by the main shock in the region, we are able to identify the true rupture plane and the reactivation of a subducted normal fault, enhancing our understanding on the downdip shear zone. In Chapter 3, based on similar techniques, we further develop a systematic methodology to perform fast assessments on important source properties as an earthquake occurs. For two Mw 4.4 earthquakes in Fontana, moment magnitude and focal mechanism can be accurately estimated with 3 to 6 s after the first P-wave arrival, while focal depth can be constrained upon the arrival of S waves. Rupture directivity can also be determined with as little as 3 seconds of P waves. This study opens the opportunity to predict ground motions ahead of time and can potentially be useful for Earthquake Early Warning.

Part II involves the modeling of seismic source properties and physical mechanisms of interacting earthquakes in dynamic rupture simulations. In particular, we focus on small repeating earthquake sequences that trigger one another. In Chapter 4, we quantify the relative importance of physical mechanisms that contribute to earthquake interaction and identify that the stress change caused by post seismic slip is the dominating factor. Our findings introduce the possibility to constrain frictional properties of the fault based on earthquake interactions. We further apply this working model in Chapter 5 to reproduce the actual interacting repeating sequences in Parkfield. We are able to identify possible physical mechanisms that cause the inferred high stress drops of these repeating events, as well as reproduce their synchronized seismic cycles. Results from our simulations are consistent with the observed scaling relation between the recurrence time interval and the seismic moment of these events. Our findings indicate that the difference between the observed and the theoretical scaling relations can be explained by the significant aseismic slip in the rupture area.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Seismology, earthquakes, waveform, seismic rupture, numerical simulation
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Lapusta, Nadia (co-advisor)
  • Helmberger, Donald V. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Avouac, Jean-Philippe (chair)
  • Clayton, Robert W.
  • Tsai, Victor C.
  • Ampuero, Jean-Paul
  • Lapusta, Nadia
  • Helmberger, Donald V.
Defense Date:26 October 2016
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:11232016-044435496
Persistent URL:http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechTHESIS:11232016-044435496
Related URLs:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9983
Deposited By:Ka Yan Semechah Lui
Deposited On:29 Nov 2016 17:03
Last Modified:12 Dec 2016 23:31


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In this study, joint inversions of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Global Position System (GPS) measurements are used to investigate the source parameters of four Mw > 5 events of the 2016–2017 Central Italy earthquake sequence. The results show that the four events are all associated with a normal fault striking northwest–southeast and dipping southwest. The observations, in all cases, are consistent with slip on a rupture plane, with strike in the range of 157° to 164° and dip in the range of 39° to 44° that penetrates the uppermost crust to a depth of 0 to 8 km. The primary characteristics of these four events are that the 24 August 2016 Mw 6.2 Amatrice earthquake had pronounced heterogeneity of the slip distribution marked by two main slip patches, the 26 October 2016 Mw 6.1 Visso earthquake had a concentrated slip at 3–6 km, and the predominant slip of the 30 October 2016 Mw 6.6 Norcia earthquake occurred on the fault with a peak magnitude of 2.5 m at a depth of 0–6 km, suggesting that the rupture may have reached the surface, and the 18 January 2017 Mw 5.7 Campotosto earthquake had a large area of sliding at depth 3–9 km. The positive static stress changes on the fault planes of the latter three events demonstrate that the 24 August 2016 Amatrice earthquake may have triggered a cascading failure of earthquakes along the complex normal fault system in Central Italy. View Full-Text

Keywords: SAR interferometry; Central Italy; Sentinel-1; normal fault; earthquake sequenceSAR interferometry; Central Italy; Sentinel-1; normal fault; earthquake sequence

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