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We show that realistic aftershock sequences with space-time characteristics compatible with observations are generated by a model consisting of brittle fault segments separated by creeping zones. The dynamics of the brittle regions is governed by static/kinetic friction, 3D elastic stress transfer and small creep deformation. The creeping parts are characterized by high ongoing creep velocities. These regions store stress during earthquake failures and then release it in the interseismic periods. The resulting postseismic deformation leads to aftershock sequences following the modified Omori law. The ratio of creep coefficients in the brittle and creeping sections determines the duration of the postseismic transients and the exponent p of the modified Omori law

Aseismic transient driving the swarm-like seismic sequence in the Pollino range, Southern Italy
(2015)

Tectonic earthquake swarms challenge our understanding of earthquake processes since it is difficult to link observations to the underlying physical mechanisms and to assess the hazard they pose. Transient forcing is thought to initiate and drive the spatio-temporal release of energy during swarms. The nature of the transient forcing may vary across sequences and range from aseismic creeping or transient slip to diffusion of pore pressure pulses to fluid redistribution and migration within the seismogenic crust. Distinguishing between such forcing mechanisms may be critical to reduce epistemic uncertainties in the assessment of hazard due to seismic swarms, because it can provide information on the frequency-magnitude distribution of the earthquakes (often deviating from the assumed Gutenberg-Richter relation) and on the expected source parameters influencing the ground motion (for example the stress drop). Here we study the ongoing Pollino range (Southern Italy) seismic swarm, a long-lasting seismic sequence with more than five thousand events recorded and located since October 2010. The two largest shocks (magnitude M-w = 4.2 and M-w = 5.1) are among the largest earthquakes ever recorded in an area which represents a seismic gap in the Italian historical earthquake catalogue. We investigate the geometrical, mechanical and statistical characteristics of the largest earthquakes and of the entire swarm. We calculate the focal mechanisms of the M-l > 3 events in the sequence and the transfer of Coulomb stress on nearby known faults and analyse the statistics of the earthquake catalogue. We find that only 25 per cent of the earthquakes in the sequence can be explained as aftershocks, and the remaining 75 per cent may be attributed to a transient forcing. The b-values change in time throughout the sequence, with low b-values correlated with the period of highest rate of activity and with the occurrence of the largest shock. In the light of recent studies on the palaeoseismic and historical activity in the Pollino area, we identify two scenarios consistent with the observations and our analysis: This and past seismic swarms may have been 'passive' features, with small fault patches failing on largely locked faults, or may have been accompanied by an 'active', largely aseismic, release of a large portion of the accumulated tectonic strain. Those scenarios have very different implications for the seismic hazard of the area.

Due to large uncertainties and non-uniqueness in fault slip inversion, the investigation of stress coupling based on the direct comparison of independent slip inversions, for example, between the coseismic slip distribution and the interseismic slip deficit, may lead to ambiguous conclusions. In this study, we therefore adopt the stress-constrained joint inversion in the Bayesian approach of Wang et al., and implement the physical hypothesis of stress coupling as a prior. We test the hypothesis that interseismic locking is coupled with the coseismic rupture, and the early post-seismic deformation is a stress relaxation process in response to the coseismic stress perturbation. We characterize the role of stress coupling in the seismic cycle by evaluating the efficiency of the model to explain the available data. Taking the 2004 M6 Parkfield earthquake as a study case, we find that the stress coupling hypothesis is in agreement with the data. The coseismic rupture zone is found to be strongly locked during the interseismic phase and the post-seismic slip zone is indicated to be weakly creeping. The post-seismic deformation plays an important role to rebuild stress in the coseismic rupture zone. Based on our results for the stress accumulation during both inter- and post-seismic phase in the coseismic rupture zone, together with the coseismic stress drop, we estimate a recurrence time of M6 earthquake in Parkfield around 23-41 yr, suggesting that the duration of 38 yr between the two recent M6 events in Parkfield is not a surprise.

We study changes in effective stress (normal stress minus pore pressure) that occurred in the French Alps during the 2003-2004 Ubaye earthquake swarm. Two complementary data sets are used. First, a set of 974 relocated events allows us to finely characterize the shape of the seismogenic area and the spatial migration of seismicity during the crisis. Relocations are performed by a double-difference algorithm. We compute differences in travel times at stations both from absolute picking times and from cross-correlation delays of multiplets. The resulting catalog reveals a swarm alignment along a single planar structure striking N130 degrees E and dipping 80 degrees W. This relocated activity displays migration properties consistent with a triggering by a diffusive fluid overpressure front. This observation argues in favor of a deep-seated fluid circulation responsible for a significant part of the seismic activity in Ubaye. Second, we analyze time series of earthquake detections at a single seismological station located just above the swarm. This time series forms a dense chronicle of +16,000 events. We use it to estimate the history of effective stress changes during this sequence. For this purpose we model the rate of events by a stochastic epidemic-type aftershock sequence model with a nonstationary background seismic rate lambda(0)(t). This background rate is estimated in discrete time windows. Window lengths are determined optimally according to a new change-point method on the basis of the interevent times distribution. We propose that background events are triggered directly by a transient fluid circulation at depth. Then, using rate-and-state constitutive friction laws, we estimate changes in effective stress for the observed rate of background events. We assume that changes in effective stress occurred under constant shear stressing rate conditions. We finally obtain a maximum change in effective stress close to -8 MPa, which corresponds to a maximum fluid overpressure of about 8 MPa under constant normal stress conditions. This estimate is in good agreement with values obtained from numerical modeling of fluid flow at depth, or with direct measurements reported from fluid injection experiments.

Time-dependent probabilistic seismic hazard assessment requires a stochastic description of earthquake occurrences. While short-term seismicity models are well-constrained by observations, the recurrences of characteristic on-fault earthquakes are only derived from theoretical considerations, uncertain palaeo-events or proxy data. Despite the involved uncertainties and complexity, simple statistical models for a quasi-period recurrence of on-fault events are implemented in seismic hazard assessments. To test the applicability of statistical models, such as the Brownian relaxation oscillator or the stress release model, we perform a systematic comparison with deterministic simulations based on rate- and state-dependent friction, high-resolution representations of fault systems and quasi-dynamic rupture propagation. For the specific fault network of the Lower Rhine Embayment, Germany, we run both stochastic and deterministic model simulations based on the same fault geometries and stress interactions. Our results indicate that the stochastic simulators are able to reproduce the first-order characteristics of the major earthquakes on isolated faults as well as for coupled faults with moderate stress interactions. However, we find that all tested statistical models fail to reproduce the characteristics of strongly coupled faults, because multisegment rupturing resulting from a spatiotemporally correlated stress field is underestimated in the stochastic simulators. Our results suggest that stochastic models have to be extended by multirupture probability distributions to provide more reliable results.

[1] According to the well-known Coulomb failure criterion the variation of either stress or pore pressure can result in earthquake rupture. Aftershock sequences characterized by the Omori law are often assumed to be the consequence of varying stress, whereas earthquake swarms are thought to be triggered by fluid intrusions. The role of stress triggering can be analyzed by modeling solely three-dimensional (3-D) elastic stress changes in the crust, but fluid flows which initiate seismicity cannot be investigated without considering complex seismicity patterns resulting from both pore pressure variations and earthquake-connected stress field changes. We show that the epidemic-type aftershock sequence (ETAS) model is an appropriate tool to extract the primary fluid signal from such complex seismicity patterns. We analyze a large earthquake swarm that occurred in 2000 in Vogtland/NW Bohemia, central Europe. By fitting the stochastic ETAS model, we find that stress triggering is dominant in creating the observed seismicity patterns and explains the observed fractal interevent time distribution. External forcing, identified with pore pressure changes due to fluid intrusion, is found to directly trigger only a few percent of the total activity. However, temporal deconvolution indicates that a pronounced fluid signal initiated the swarm. These results are confirmed by our analogous investigation of model simulations in which earthquakes are triggered by fluid intrusion as well as stress transfers on a fault plane embedded in a 3-D elastic half-space. The deconvolution procedure based on the ETAS model is able to reveal the underlying pore pressure variations

Earthquakes occurring close to hydrocarbon fields under production are often under critical view of being induced or triggered. However, clear and testable rules to discriminate the different events have rarely been developed and tested. The unresolved scientific problem may lead to lengthy public disputes with unpredictable impact on the local acceptance of the exploitation and field operations. We propose a quantitative approach to discriminate induced, triggered, and natural earthquakes, which is based on testable input parameters. Maxima of occurrence probabilities are compared for the cases under question, and a single probability of being triggered or induced is reported. The uncertainties of earthquake location and other input parameters are considered in terms of the integration over probability density functions. The probability that events have been human triggered/induced is derived from the modeling of Coulomb stress changes and a rate and state-dependent seismicity model. In our case a 3-D boundary element method has been adapted for the nuclei of strain approach to estimate the stress changes outside the reservoir, which are related to pore pressure changes in the field formation. The predicted rate of natural earthquakes is either derived from the background seismicity or, in case of rare events, from an estimate of the tectonic stress rate. Instrumentally derived seismological information on the event location, source mechanism, and the size of the rupture plane is of advantage for the method. If the rupture plane has been estimated, the discrimination between induced or only triggered events is theoretically possible if probability functions are convolved with a rupture fault filter. We apply the approach to three recent main shock events: (1) the M-w 4.3 Ekofisk 2001, North Sea, earthquake close to the Ekofisk oil field; (2) the M-w 4.4 Rotenburg 2004, Northern Germany, earthquake in the vicinity of the Sohlingen gas field; and (3) the M-w 6.1 Emilia 2012, Northern Italy, earthquake in the vicinity of a hydrocarbon reservoir. The three test cases cover the complete range of possible causes: clearly human induced, not even human triggered, and a third case in between both extremes.

Earthquake faults interact with each other in many different ways and hence earthquakes cannot be treated as individual independent events. Although earthquake interactions generally lead to a complex evolution of the crustal stress field, it does not necessarily mean that the earthquake occurrence becomes random and completely unpredictable. In particular, the interplay between earthquakes can rather explain the occurrence of pronounced characteristics such as periods of accelerated and depressed seismicity (seismic quiescence) as well as spatiotemporal earthquake clustering (swarms and aftershock sequences). Ignoring the time-dependence of the process by looking at time-averaged values – as largely done in standard procedures of seismic hazard assessment – can thus lead to erroneous estimations not only of the activity level of future earthquakes but also of their spatial distribution. Therefore, it exists an urgent need for applicable time-dependent models. In my work, I aimed at better understanding and characterization of the earthquake interactions in order to improve seismic hazard estimations. For this purpose, I studied seismicity patterns on spatial scales ranging from hydraulic fracture experiments (meter to kilometer) to fault system size (hundreds of kilometers), while the temporal scale of interest varied from the immediate aftershock activity (minutes to months) to seismic cycles (tens to thousands of years). My studies revealed a number of new characteristics of fluid-induced and stress-triggered earthquake clustering as well as precursory phenomena in earthquake cycles. Data analysis of earthquake and deformation data were accompanied by statistical and physics-based model simulations which allow a better understanding of the role of structural heterogeneities, stress changes, afterslip and fluid flow. Finally, new strategies and methods have been developed and tested which help to improve seismic hazard estimations by taking the time-dependence of the earthquake process appropriately into account.

Diese Arbeit beschäftigt sich mit der Annahme, dass den Erdbeben ein selbstorganisiert kritischer Zustand der Erdkruste zugrunde liegt. Mit Hilfe einer Erweiterung bisheriger Modelle wird gezeigt, dass ein solcher Zustand nicht nur für die Grössenverteilung der Erdbeben (Gutenberg-Richter Gesetz), sondern auch für das beobachtete raumzeitliche Auftreten, z.B. für das Omori-Gesetz für Nachbebenserien, verantwortlich sein kann. Desweiteren wird die Frage nach der Vorhersagbarkeit grosser Erdbeben in solchen Modellsimulationen untersucht.

The statistics of time delays between successive earthquakes has recently been claimed to be universal and to show the existence of clustering beyond the duration of aftershock bursts. We demonstrate that these claims are unjustified. Stochastic simulations with Poissonian background activity and triggered Omori-type aftershock sequences are shown to reproduce the interevent-time distributions observed on different spatial and magnitude scales in California. Thus the empirical distribution can be explained without any additional long-term clustering. Furthermore, we find that the shape of the interevent-time distribution, which can be approximated by the gamma distribution, is determined by the percentage of main-shocks in the catalog. This percentage can be calculated by the mean and variance of the interevent times and varies between 5% and 90% for different regions in California. Our investigation of stochastic simulations indicates that the interevent-time distribution provides a nonparametric reconstruction of the mainshock magnitude-frequency distribution that is superior to standard declustering algorithm