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Quantitative Analysis of Shallow Earthquake Sequences and Regional Earthquake Behavior: Implications for Earthquake Forecasting

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posted on 2021-11-13, 22:42 authored by Jacobs, Katrina Maureen

This study is a quantitative investigation and characterization of earthquake sequences in the Central Volcanic Region (CVR) of New Zealand, and several regions in New Zealand and Southern California. We introduce CURATE, a new declustering algorithm that uses rate as the primary indicator of an earthquake sequence, and we show it has appreciable utility for analyzing seismicity. The algorithm is applied to the CVR and other regions around New Zealand. These regions are also compared with the Southern California earthquake catalogue. There is a variety of behavior within these regions, with areas that experience larger mainshock-aftershock (MS-AS) sequences having distinctly different general sequence parameters than those of more swarm dominated regions. The analysis of the declustered catalog shows that Lake Taupo and at least three other North Island regions have correlated variations in rate over periods of ~5 years. These increases in rate are not due to individual large sequences, but are instead caused by a general increase in earthquake and sequence occurrence. The most obvious increase in rate across the four North Island subsets follows the 1995-1996 magmatic eruption at Ruapehu volcano. The fact that these increases are geographically widespread and occur over years at a time suggests that the variations may reflect changes in the subduction system or a broad tectonic process.  We examine basic sequence parameters of swarms and MS-AS sequences to provide better information for earthquake forecasting models. Like MS-AS sequences, swarm sequences contain a large amount of decay (decreasing rate) throughout their duration. We have tested this decay and found that 89% of MS-AS sequences and 55% of swarm sequences are better fit with an Omori's law decay than a linear rate. This result will be important to future efforts to forecast lower magnitude ranges or swarm prone areas like the CVR.  To look at what types of process may drive individual sequences and may be associated with the rate changes, we examined a series of swarms that occurred to the South of Lake Taupo in 2009. We relocated these earthquakes using double-difference method, hypoDD, to obtain more accurate relative locations and depths. These swarms occur in an area about 20x20 km. They do not show systematic migration between sequences. The last swarm in the series is located in the most resistive area of the Tokaanu geothermal region and had two M =4.4 earthquakes within just four hours of each other. The earthquakes in this swarm have an accelerating rate of occurrence leading up to the first M = 4.4 earthquakes, which migrate upward in depth. The locations of earthquakes following the M = 4.4 event expand away from it at a rate consistent with fluid diffusion.  Our statistical investigation of triggering due to large global (M ≥ 7) and regional earthquakes (M ≥ 6) concludes that more detailed (waveform level) investigation of individual sequences will be necessary to conclusively identify triggering, but sequence catalogs may be useful in identifying potential targets for those investigations. We also analyzed the probability that a series of swarms in the central Southern Alps were triggered by the 2009 Dusky Sound Mw = 7.8 and the 2010 Darfield Mw = 7.1 earthquake. There is less than a one-percent chance that the observed sequences occurred randomly in time. The triggered swarms do not show a significant difference to the swarms occurring in that region at other times in the 1.5-year catalog. Waveform cross-correlation was performed on this central Southern Alps earthquake catalog by a fellow PhD student Carolin Boese, and reveals that individual swarms are often composed of a single waveform family or multiple waveform families in addition to earthquakes that did not show waveform similarities. The existence of earthquakes that do not share waveform similarity in the same swarm (2.5 km radius) as a waveform family indicates that similar waveform groups may be unique in their location, but do not necessarily necessitate a unique trigger or driver. In addition to these triggered swarms in the Southern Alps we have also identified two swarms that are potentially triggered by slow-slip earthquakes along the Hikurangi margin in 2009 and 2010. The sequence catalogs generated by the CURATE method may be an ideal tool for searching for earthquake sequences triggered by slow-slip.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Smith, Euan; Savage, Martha