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Estimation of absolute stress in the hypocentral region of the 2019 Ridgecrest, California, earthquakes
  • Yuri Fialko
Yuri Fialko

Corresponding Author:yfialko@ucsd.edu

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Strength of the upper brittle part of the Earth’s lithosphere controls deformation styles in tectonically active regions, surface topography, seismicity, and the occurrence of plate tectonics, yet it remains one of the most debated quantities in geophysics. Direct measurements of stresses acting at seismogenic depths are largely lacking. Seismic data (in particular, earthquake focal mechanisms) have been used to infer orientation of the principal stress axes. I show that the focal mechanism data can be combined with information from precise earthquake locations to place constraints not only on the orientation, but also on the magnitude of absolute stress at depth. The proposed method uses relative attitudes of conjugate faults to evaluate the amplitude and spatial heterogeneity of the deviatoric stress and frictional strength in the seismogenic zone. Relative fault orientations (dihedral angles) and sense of slip are determined using quasi-planar clusters of seismicity and their composite focal mechanisms. The observed distribution of dihedral angles between active conjugate faults in the area of Ridgecrest (California, USA) that hosted a recent sequence of strong earthquakes suggests in situ coefficient of friction of 0.4-0.6, and depth-averaged shear stress on the order of 25-40 MPa, intermediate between predictions of the “strong” and “weak” fault theories.
Jul 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth volume 126 issue 7. 10.1029/2021JB022000