Earthquake Report: M 5.7 & 6.2 Mendocino triple junction

I was returning from New Orleans where I was attending the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. There was a short layover in Denver and I had a short time to find some food, which is challenging with my dietary restrictions. I cannot recall precisely, but I got some notification from my CGS crew about a magnitude M 6.2 earthquake offshore of the Mendocino triple junction. One of these notifications was from Cindy as we both collaborate to prepare quick reports for earthquakes in California. These reports are sent upstream to management in our organization and others. I was unavailable to contribute this time.
Needless to say, I was sad to have missed experiencing this good sized shaker for myself. This is the first earthquake of this size that I have missed (in Humboldt) since I moved here in 1991.
I got home about 3 am the next morning and did not have energy to prepare an earthjay report. Though I started working on it the next day. However, I soon learned that this was a complicated earthquake and I decided to await additional analyses by the Berkeley Seismmo Lab and the USGS.
Last week or so, their analyses were produced publicly and the earthquake catalog was updated. What we discovered is that there were two closely spaced (in time but not space) earthquakes, an M 5.7 and and M 6.2.
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/nc71127029/executive
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/nc73666231/executive
It was complicated for the seismologists to work out because the seismic waves of the two events overlapped in time. i.e., the waves from the first quake were still passing through the Earth when the waves from the second quake started.
Basically, there was initially an M 5.7 strike-slip earthquake along the Mendocino transform fault zone about 20 km (12.5 miles) offshore. About 10 or 11 seconds later, there was an M 6.2 strike-slip earthquake within the Gorda plate, below the megathrust fault.
Here is a plot from the USGS. Each horizontal squiggly line is the seismograph record from an individual seismometer. They are plotted with the seismometer closest to the earthquake on the bottom row and the furthest seismometer on the uppermost row.
The P wave (primary wave) is the first of four major types of seismic waves. Next comes the S (secondary) wave, then the Love waves, and finally the Raleigh waves.
The P wave arrives at closer seismometers before it arrives at more distant seismometers. Because of this, we generally call this type of plot a travel time plot.


In the above plot we can see how the M 6.1 P waves are arriving while the M 5.7 S waves are still being transmitted.
The M 5.7 is clearly a right-lateral strike-slip event given the aftershock pattern and the known location and type of the Mendocino fault system (a right-lateral strike-slip fault.
The interpretation for the type of earthquake for the M 6.2 is a little more complicated.
Earthquake mechanisms (the “beach balls”) show two possible ways that the earthquake could have slipped. We use aftershock patterns and existing mapped faults to help us interpret which of these [nodal] fault planes is the more likely one.
If we look at the earthquake poster below, we see that the M 6.2 earthquake is an almost pure strike-slip earthquake. The two possible fault planes are one that is oriented in the northwest direction (would be right-lateral) and one that is in the northeast direction (would be left-lateral).

    There are two reasons why I interpret the M 6.2 to be right-lateral (of course, I could be wrong).

  1. There are a series of aftershocks that appear to align along a northwest trajectory. See the 6 mechanisms for the earthquakes just north of the M 6.2. The epicenters for these M 3.8, 3.0, 3.2, 3.0, 3.3, and 3.8 earthquakes align with a northwest oriented trend.
  2. The 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake main events began with an M 7.2 thrust type earthquake mainshock followed by two triggered events with magnitudes of M 6.6 and M 6.5. These triggered events are strike-slip and within the Gorda plate (“intraplate” events). If we take a look at the earthquake catalog after it has been modeled using a “double differencing” technique (read more here), we would notice several northwest trends in seismicity. These trends appeared after the 1992 sequence.

So, while most of our experience with the Gorda plate is with northeast oriented (striking) left-lateral strike-slip faults (e.g., 1980, 2010, 2014, etc.) it is possible that there are other faults, sub-parallel to the post-1992 seismicity trends, where the M 6.2 and other aftershocks were hosted. I mention these northwest trending faults in a recent Earthquake Report here.
Something that is interesting is that the onshore events from this 20 Dec 2021 sequence are just to the north of the aftershocks from the 1992 sequence. They are at similar depths as those ’92 quakes and have similar earthquake mechanisms. As Spock would say, Fascinating.
Dr. Anthony Lomax, famous for his work locating the hypocenter for the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, has been developing excellent tools for seismologists ever since. He recently applied one of his new tools to locate earthquakes to the Mendocino triple junction region. I present some of his figures below.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

  • I plot the seismicity from the past month, with diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1920-2020 with magnitudes M ≥ 3.0 in one version.
  • I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.
  • A review of the basic base map variations and data that I use for the interpretive posters can be found on the Earthquake Reports page. I have improved these posters over time and some of this background information applies to the older posters.
  • Some basic fundamentals of earthquake geology and plate tectonics can be found on the Earthquake Plate Tectonic Fundamentals page.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the upper left corner is a small scale view of the Mendocino triple junction where the southern Cascadia subduction zone meets the right-lateral Mendocino and San Andreas strike-slip faults.
  • In the lower center is a plot of earthquake intensity (vertical axis) relative to distance from the earthquake (horizontal axis). The blue and orange dots represent USGS Did You Feel It? reports, observations from real people. The green and orange lines show the plots from the USGS [empirical] models of shaking intensity.
  • To the left of the plot is a map that shows these same data. The colored areas are the average intensity reported by people (dyfi numbers). The colored lines represent the USGS modeled intensities. Both the plot and the map show that the shaking intensity gets smaller with distance from the earthquake.
  • In the left upper center is a map that shows liquefaction susceptibility. This is a model from the USGS that uses ground shaking data to estimate where there may be liquefaction. I drove around after the earthquake and could not locate any evidence for liquefaction but my search was far from comprehensive.
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted.

  • This one helps us compare the mainshock and two main triggered earthquakes.

  • Here is a poster that shows a comparison between the 1991 Honeydew and 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes..

Other Report Pages

    Shaking Intensity and Potential for Ground Failure

    • Below are a series of maps that show the shaking intensity and potential for landslides and liquefaction. These are all USGS data products.
    • There are many different ways in which a landslide can be triggered. The first order relations behind slope failure (landslides) is that the “resisting” forces that are preventing slope failure (e.g. the strength of the bedrock or soil) are overcome by the “driving” forces that are pushing this land downwards (e.g. gravity). The ratio of resisting forces to driving forces is called the Factor of Safety (FOS). We can write this ratio like this:

      FOS = Resisting Force / Driving Force

      When FOS > 1, the slope is stable and when FOS < 1, the slope fails and we get a landslide. The illustration below shows these relations. Note how the slope angle α can take part in this ratio (the steeper the slope, the greater impact of the mass of the slope can contribute to driving forces). The real world is more complicated than the simplified illustration below.


      Landslide ground shaking can change the Factor of Safety in several ways that might increase the driving force or decrease the resisting force. Keefer (1984) studied a global data set of earthquake triggered landslides and found that larger earthquakes trigger larger and more numerous landslides across a larger area than do smaller earthquakes. Earthquakes can cause landslides because the seismic waves can cause the driving force to increase (the earthquake motions can “push” the land downwards), leading to a landslide. In addition, ground shaking can change the strength of these earth materials (a form of resisting force) with a process called liquefaction.
      Sediment or soil strength is based upon the ability for sediment particles to push against each other without moving. This is a combination of friction and the forces exerted between these particles. This is loosely what we call the “angle of internal friction.” Liquefaction is a process by which pore pressure increases cause water to push out against the sediment particles so that they are no longer touching.
      An analogy that some may be familiar with relates to a visit to the beach. When one is walking on the wet sand near the shoreline, the sand may hold the weight of our body generally pretty well. However, if we stop and vibrate our feet back and forth, this causes pore pressure to increase and we sink into the sand as the sand liquefies. Or, at least our feet sink into the sand.
      Below is a diagram showing how an increase in pore pressure can push against the sediment particles so that they are not touching any more. This allows the particles to move around and this is why our feet sink in the sand in the analogy above. This is also what changes the strength of earth materials such that a landslide can be triggered.


      Below is a diagram based upon a publication designed to educate the public about landslides and the processes that trigger them (USGS, 2004). Additional background information about landslide types can be found in Highland et al. (2008). There was a variety of landslide types that can be observed surrounding the earthquake region. So, this illustration can help people when they observing the landscape response to the earthquake whether they are using aerial imagery, photos in newspaper or website articles, or videos on social media. Will you be able to locate a landslide scarp or the toe of a landslide? This figure shows a rotational landslide, one where the land rotates along a curvilinear failure surface.

    • Below is the liquefaction susceptibility and landslide probability map (Jessee et al., 2017; Zhu et al., 2017). Please head over to that report for more information about the USGS Ground Failure products (landslides and liquefaction). Basically, earthquakes shake the ground and this ground shaking can cause landslides. We can see that there is a low probability for landslides. However, we have already seen photographic evidence for landslides and the lower limit for earthquake triggered landslides is magnitude M 5.5 (from Keefer 1984)
    • I use the same color scheme that the USGS uses on their website. Note how the areas that are more likely to have experienced earthquake induced liquefaction are in the valleys. Learn more about how the USGS prepares these model results here.

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone, modified from Nelson et al. (2006). The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. Sites where evidence of past earthquakes (paleoseismology) are denoted by white dots. Where there is also evidence for past CSZ tsunami, there are black dots. These paleoseismology sites are labeled (e.g. Humboldt Bay). Some submarine paleoseismology core sites are also shown as grey dots. The two main spreading ridges are not labeled, but the northern one is the Juan de Fuca ridge (where oceanic crust is formed for the Juan de Fuca plate) and the southern one is the Gorda rise (where the oceanic crust is formed for the Gorda plate).

  • Here is a version of the CSZ cross section alone (Plafker, 1972). This shows two parts of the earthquake cycle: the interseismic part (between earthquakes) and the coseismic part (during earthquakes). Regions that experience uplift during the interseismic period tend to experience subsidence during the coseismic period.

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. We also can see how a subduction zone generates a tsunami. Atwater et al., 2005.

  • Here is an animation produced by the folks at Cal Tech following the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake. I have several posts about that earthquake here and here. One may learn more about this animation, as well as download this animation here.

The Gorda and Juan de Fuca plates subduct beneath the North America plate to form the Cascadia subduction zone fault system. In 1992 there was a swarm of earthquakes with the magnitude Mw 7.2 Mainshock on 4/25. Initially this earthquake was interpreted to have been on the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ). The moment tensor shows a compressional mechanism. However the two largest aftershocks on 4/26/1992 (Mw 6.5 and Mw 6.7), had strike-slip moment tensors. In my mind, these two aftershocks aligned on what may be the eastern extension of the Mendocino fault. However, looking at their locations, my mind was incorrect. These two earthquakes were not aftershocks, but were either left-lateral or right-lateral strike-slip Gorda plate earthquakes triggered by the M 7.1 thrust event.
These two quakes appear to be aligned with the two northwest trends in seismicity and the 18 March 2020 M 5.2. The orientation of the mechanisms are not as perfectly well aligned, but there are lots of reasons for this (perhaps the faults were formed in a slightly different orientation, but have rotated slightly).
There have been several series of intra-plate earthquakes in the Gorda plate. Two main shocks that I plot of this type of earthquake are the 1980 (Mw 7.2) and 2005 (Mw 7.2) earthquakes. I place orange lines approximately where the faults are that ruptured in 1980 and 2005. These are also plotted in the Rollins and Stein (2010) figure above. The Gorda plate is being deformed due to compression between the Pacific plate to the south and the Juan de Fuca plate to the north. Due to this north-south compression, the plate is deforming internally so that normal faults that formed at the spreading center (the Gorda Rise) are reactivated as left-lateral strike-slip faults. In 2014, there was another swarm of left-lateral earthquakes in the Gorda plate. I posted some material about the Gorda plate setting on this page.

  • This is the map used in the animation below. Earthquake epicenters are plotted (some with USGS moment tensors) for this region from 1917-2017 with M ≥ 6.5. I labeled the plates and shaded their general location in different colors.
  • I include some inset maps.
    • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004).
    • In the upper left corner is a map from Rollins and Stein (2010). They plot epicenters and fault lines involved in earthquakes between 1976 and 2010.


    • Here is a map from Rollins and Stein, showing their interpretations of different historic earthquakes in the region. This was published in response to the Januray 2010 Gorda plate earthquake. The faults are from Chaytor et al. (2004).

    • Tectonic configuration of the Gorda deformation zone and locations and source models for 1976–2010 M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes. Letters designate chronological order of earthquakes (Table 1 and Appendix A). Plate motion vectors relative to the Pacific Plate (gray arrows in main diagram) are from Wilson [1989], with Cande and Kent’s [1995] timescale correction.

    • Here is a large scale map of the 1994 earthquake swarm. The mainshock epicenter is a black star and epicenters are denoted as white circles.

    • Here is a plot of focal mechanisms from the Dengler et al. (1995) paper in California Geology.

      • In this map below, I label a number of other significant earthquakes in this Mendocino triple junction region. Another historic right-lateral earthquake on the Mendocino fault system was in 1994. There was a series of earthquakes possibly along the easternmost section of the Mendocino fault system in late January 2015, here is my post about that earthquake series.

      • Here is a map from Chaytor et al. (2004) that shows some details of the faulting in the region. The moment tensor (at the moment i write this) shows a north-south striking fault with a reverse or thrust faulting mechanism. While this region of faulting is dominated by strike slip faults (and most all prior earthquake moment tensors showed strike slip earthquakes), when strike slip faults bend, they can create compression (transpression) and extension (transtension). This transpressive or transtentional deformation may produce thrust/reverse earthquakes or normal fault earthquakes, respectively. The transverse ranges north of Los Angeles are an example of uplift/transpression due to the bend in the San Andreas fault in that region.

      • A: Mapped faults and fault-related ridges within Gorda plate based on basement structure and surface morphology, overlain on bathymetric contours (gray lines—250 m interval). Approximate boundaries of three structural segments are also shown. Black arrows indicated approximate location of possible northwest- trending large-scale folds. B, C: uninterpreted and interpreted enlargements of center of plate showing location of interpreted second-generation strike-slip faults and features that they appear to offset. OSC—overlapping spreading center.

      • These are the models for tectonic deformation within the Gorda plate as presented by Jason Chaytor in 2004.
      • Mw = 5 Trinidad Chaytor

        Models of brittle deformation for Gorda plate overlain on magnetic anomalies modified from Raff and Mason (1961). Models A–F were proposed prior to collection and analysis of full-plate multibeam data. Deformation model of Gulick et al. (2001) is included in model A. Model G represents modification of Stoddard’s (1987) flexural-slip model proposed in this paper.


    Social Media

    References:

    Basic & General References

  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Hayes, G., 2018, Slab2 – A Comprehensive Subduction Zone Geometry Model: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7PV6JNV.
  • Holt, W. E., C. Kreemer, A. J. Haines, L. Estey, C. Meertens, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2005), Project helps constrain continental dynamics and seismic hazards, Eos Trans. AGU, 86(41), 383–387, , https://doi.org/10.1029/2005EO410002. /li>
  • Jessee, M.A.N., Hamburger, M. W., Allstadt, K., Wald, D. J., Robeson, S. M., Tanyas, H., et al. (2018). A global empirical model for near-real-time assessment of seismically induced landslides. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123, 1835–1859. https://doi.org/10.1029/2017JF004494
  • Kreemer, C., J. Haines, W. Holt, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2000), On the determination of a global strain rate model, Geophys. J. Int., 52(10), 765–770.
  • Kreemer, C., W. E. Holt, and A. J. Haines (2003), An integrated global model of present-day plate motions and plate boundary deformation, Geophys. J. Int., 154(1), 8–34, , https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-246X.2003.01917.x.
  • Kreemer, C., G. Blewitt, E.C. Klein, 2014. A geodetic plate motion and Global Strain Rate Model in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 15, p. 3849-3889, https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GC005407.
  • Meyer, B., Saltus, R., Chulliat, a., 2017. EMAG2: Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid (2-arc-minute resolution) Version 3. National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA. Model. https://doi.org/10.7289/V5H70CVX
  • Müller, R.D., Sdrolias, M., Gaina, C. and Roest, W.R., 2008, Age spreading rates and spreading asymmetry of the world’s ocean crust in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, Q04006, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GC001743
  • Pagani,M. , J. Garcia-Pelaez, R. Gee, K. Johnson, V. Poggi, R. Styron, G. Weatherill, M. Simionato, D. Viganò, L. Danciu, D. Monelli (2018). Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Seismic Hazard Map (version 2018.1 – December 2018), DOI: 10.13117/GEM-GLOBAL-SEISMIC-HAZARD-MAP-2018.1
  • Silva, V ., D Amo-Oduro, A Calderon, J Dabbeek, V Despotaki, L Martins, A Rao, M Simionato, D Viganò, C Yepes, A Acevedo, N Horspool, H Crowley, K Jaiswal, M Journeay, M Pittore, 2018. Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Seismic Risk Map (version 2018.1). https://doi.org/10.13117/GEM-GLOBAL-SEISMIC-RISK-MAP-2018.1
  • Zhu, J., Baise, L. G., Thompson, E. M., 2017, An Updated Geospatial Liquefaction Model for Global Application, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 107, p 1365-1385, https://doi.org/0.1785/0120160198
  • Specific References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Dziak, R.P., and Fox, C.G., 2004. Active deformation of the Gorda plate: Constraining deformation models with new geophysical data: Geology v. 32, p. 353-356.
  • Dengler, L.A., Moley, K.M., McPherson, R.C., Pasyanos, M., Dewey, J.W., and Murray, M., 1995. The September 1, 1994 Mendocino Fault Earthquake, California Geology, Marc/April 1995, p. 43-53.
  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • McCrory, P.A.,. Blair, J.L., Waldhauser, F., kand Oppenheimer, D.H., 2012. Juan de Fuca slab geometry and its relation to Wadati-Benioff zone seismicity in JGR, v. 117, B09306, doi:10.1029/2012JB009407.
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • Nelson, A.R., Asquith, A.C., and Grant, W.C., 2004. Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Past 2000 Years at the Salmon River Estuary, Central Oregon Coast, USA: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 1276–1292
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1988/1434/].
  • Wells, D.L., and Coopersmith, K.J., 1994. New empirical relationships among magnitude, rupture length, rupture width, rupture area, and surface displacement in BSSA, v. 84, no. 4, p. 974-1002

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Earthquake Report: Mendocino triple junction

Well, it was a big mag 5 day today, two magnitude 5+ earthquakes in the western USA on faults related to the same plate boundary! Crazy, right? The same plate boundary, about 800 miles away from each other, and their coincident occurrence was in no way related to each other.
In the past 9 months it was also a big mag 5 MTJ year. There have been 3 mag 5+ earthquakes in the Mendocino triple junction (MTJ) region. The first one in June of 2019, at the time, appeared to be related to the Mendocino fault. The 9 March M 5.8 event was clearly associated with the right lateral Mendocino transform fault. The latest in this series of unrelated earthquakes is possibly associated with NW striking faults in the Gorda plate. I will discuss this below and include background about all the different faults in the region.

I was on the phone with my friend, collaborator, and business partner Thomas Harvey Leroy (the man with 4 first names: Tom, Harvey, Lee, and Roy) yesterday afternoon. We were determining the best course of action after a tenant of ours moved out leaving PG&E with an unpaid ~$9000 bill and we could not turn the power back on until the bill was paid. His son walked up to him and asked if what he had just felt was an earthquake. Because Tom was pacing back and forth, he did not feel it (as Tom likes to say, “feel the pain.”). He wishes that he had felt it.
My social media feed was immediately dominated by posts about the earthquake in Humboldt County. I put together a quick map (see below). My good friend and collaborator Bob McPherson (a seismologist who ran the Humboldt Bay Seismic Network in the late 70s and 80s) sent me several text messages about the earthquake. we texted back and forth. I initially thought it might be Mendo fault and so did he.
Then the USGS moment tensor (earthquake mechanism) came in with an orientation similar to that of Gorda plate earthquakes further to the north. These earthquakes are typically on northeast striking (trending) left-lateral strike-slip faults (see more here about types of earthquakes). So, I stated that I thought it was like those, a left-lateral strike-slip fault earthquake. So I deleted my social media posts and updated the map to show it could be either left-lateral or right-lateral (the map below shows both options), but that we thought it was in the Gorda plate, not the Mendocino fault.


Then Bomac mentioned these northwest trends in seismicity that we noticed (as a group) about 5 years ago, seismicity trends (seismolineaments is what Tom calls them) that first appeared following the 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake.
We don’t yet have a full explanation for these trends in seismicity, but the orientation fits a stress field from north-south compression (from the northward motion of the Pacific plate relative to the Gorda plate). This north-south compression is also the explanation for the left-lateral strike-slip fault earthquakes in the Gorda plate (Silver, 1971).

How are these 3 M5+ MTJ events related?

Well, they are not directly related to each other (i.e. none of these earthquakes caused any of the other earthquakes). The exception is that the 2019 M 5.6 may have affected the stress in the crust leading to the March M 5.2, but this is unlikely. What is even less likely that the M 5.8 was caused by the June 5.6 or caused the march 5.2.
WHy?
Well, there are two kinds of earthquake triggering.

  1. Dynamic Triggering – When seismic waves travel through the Earth, they change the stresses in the crust. IF the faults are “locked and loaded” (i.e. they are just about ready to slip in an earthquake), there may be an earthquake on the “receiver” fault. Generally, once the seismic waves are done travelling, this effect is over. Though, some suggest that this affect on the stress changes may last longer (but not much longer).
  2. Static Triggering – When an earthquake fault slips, it deforms (changes the shape) of the crust surrounding that earthquake. These changes can cause increases and decreases in the stress on faults (either increasing or decreasing the chance for an earthquake). Just like for dynamic triggering, the fault needs to be about ready to slip. The effect on fault slip changes in “static coulomb stress” generally extend a distance of about 2-3 times the fault length of the “source” fault.

Below is a figure from Wells and Coppersmith (1994) that shows the empirical relations between surface rupture length (SRL, the length of the fault that ruptures to the ground surface) and magnitude. If one knows the SRL (horizontal axis), they can estimate the magnitude (vertical axis). The left plot shows the earthquake data. The right plot shows how their formulas “predict” these data.

(a) Regression of surface rupture length on magnitude (M). Regression line shown for all-slip-type relations. Short dashed line indicates 95% confidence interval. (b) Regression lines for strike-slip, reverse, and normal-slip relations. See Table 2 for regression coefficients. Length of regression lines shows the range of data for each relation.
* note, i corrected this caption by changing the word “relationships” to “relations.”

Using these empirical relations (which are crude and may not cover earthquakes as small as this M 5.8, but they are better than nothing), the “surface rupture length” of this M 5.8 might be about 5 km. So, changes in static coulomb stress from the M 5.8 extended, at most, about 16 km (or about 10 miles). Yesterday’s M 5.2. is about 72 km away, far too distant to be statically triggered by the 5.8.
The M 5.6 might have a rupture length crudely about 3 km might affect the region up to 9 km away. The M 5.2 is ~16 km from the M 5.6, so probably too far to be affected.
However, these earthquakes are related because they are all in the same region and are responding to the same tectonic forces.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

  • I plot the seismicity from the past month, with diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1919-2019 with magnitudes M ≥ 3.0 in one version.
  • I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.
  • A review of the basic base map variations and data that I use for the interpretive posters can be found on the Earthquake Reports page.
  • Some basic fundamentals of earthquake geology and plate tectonics can be found on the Earthquake Plate Tectonic Fundamentals page.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the upper left corner are a map of the tectonic plates and their boundary faults (Chaytor et al., 2006; Nelson et al., 2006). To the right is a and cross section cutting into the Earth from West (left) to East (right) that shows the downgoing (subducting) Gorda plate beneath the North America plate (Plafker, 1972).
  • In the upper right corner is a map of the MTJ area. The Great Salt Lake is the large light blue bleb in the upper right. We can see the mountains to the east of SLC, the Wasatch Range. The Earthquake Intensity uses the MMI scale (the colors), read more about this here. This map represents an estimate of ground shaking from the M 5.7 based on a statistical model using the results of tens of thousands of earthquakes.
  • In the lower left corner to the right of the legend is a plot showing how these USGS models “predict” the ground shaking intensity will be relative to distance from the earthquake. These models are represented by the broan and green lines. People can fill out an online form to enter their observations and these “Did You Feel It?” observations are converted into an intensity number and these are plotted as dots in this figure.
  • There are several sources of seismicity on this map, but i tried to make it easier to interpret using color choices. I recognize this poster does not satisfy Access and Functional Needs. I will work on that.
    • The three main earthquakes are plotted in pastel yellow and orange-yellow colors.
    • Earthquakes from the past 3 months are light green.
    • The earthquakes from the past century are faint gray.
    • The earthquakes located using a double differenced locating method are colored relative to depth.
  • Look at the westernmost NW trend in seismicity. How does the depth of the earthquakes change along that transect?
  • Yes! The earthquakes deepen to the southeast. These earthquakes are revealing to us the location (e.g. depth) of the Gorda plate as it dives deeper to the east.
  • Here is the map with 3 month’s (in green) and 1 century’s (in gray, mislabeled) seismicity plotted. I also include seismicity from a catalog with events relocated using the Double Differencing method.

I also outlined the two main northwest trends in seismicity with dashed white line polygons. The 18 March event is in the southern end of the western seismicity trend.
There is a nice northeast trend in seismicity that I also outlined. This is probably representative of one of the typical left-lateral Strike-slip Gorda plate earthquakes.

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone, modified from Nelson et al. (2006). The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. Sites where evidence of past earthquakes (paleoseismology) are denoted by white dots. Where there is also evidence for past CSZ tsunami, there are black dots. These paleoseismology sites are labeled (e.g. Humboldt Bay). Some submarine paleoseismology core sites are also shown as grey dots. The two main spreading ridges are not labeled, but the northern one is the Juan de Fuca ridge (where oceanic crust is formed for the Juan de Fuca plate) and the southern one is the Gorda rise (where the oceanic crust is formed for the Gorda plate).

  • Here is a version of the CSZ cross section alone (Plafker, 1972). This shows two parts of the earthquake cycle: the interseismic part (between earthquakes) and the coseismic part (during earthquakes). Regions that experience uplift during the interseismic period tend to experience subsidence during the coseismic period.

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. We also can see how a subduction zone generates a tsunami. Atwater et al., 2005.

  • Here is an animation produced by the folks at Cal Tech following the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake. I have several posts about that earthquake here and here. One may learn more about this animation, as well as download this animation here.

The Gorda and Juan de Fuca plates subduct beneath the North America plate to form the Cascadia subduction zone fault system. In 1992 there was a swarm of earthquakes with the magnitude Mw 7.2 Mainshock on 4/25. Initially this earthquake was interpreted to have been on the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ). The moment tensor shows a compressional mechanism. However the two largest aftershocks on 4/26/1992 (Mw 6.5 and Mw 6.7), had strike-slip moment tensors. In my mind, these two aftershocks aligned on what may be the eastern extension of the Mendocino fault. However, looking at their locations, my mind was incorrect. These two earthquakes were not aftershocks, but were either left-lateral or right-lateral strike-slip Gorda plate earthquakes triggered by the M 7.1 thrust event.
These two quakes appear to be aligned with the two northwest trends in seismicity and the 18 March 2020 M 5.2. The orientation of the mechanisms are not as perfectly well aligned, but there are lots of reasons for this (perhaps the faults were formed in a slightly different orientation, but have rotated slightly).
There have been several series of intra-plate earthquakes in the Gorda plate. Two main shocks that I plot of this type of earthquake are the 1980 (Mw 7.2) and 2005 (Mw 7.2) earthquakes. I place orange lines approximately where the faults are that ruptured in 1980 and 2005. These are also plotted in the Rollins and Stein (2010) figure above. The Gorda plate is being deformed due to compression between the Pacific plate to the south and the Juan de Fuca plate to the north. Due to this north-south compression, the plate is deforming internally so that normal faults that formed at the spreading center (the Gorda Rise) are reactivated as left-lateral strike-slip faults. In 2014, there was another swarm of left-lateral earthquakes in the Gorda plate. I posted some material about the Gorda plate setting on this page.

  • This is the map used in the animation below. Earthquake epicenters are plotted (some with USGS moment tensors) for this region from 1917-2017 with M ≥ 6.5. I labeled the plates and shaded their general location in different colors.
  • I include some inset maps.
    • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004).
    • In the upper left corner is a map from Rollins and Stein (2010). They plot epicenters and fault lines involved in earthquakes between 1976 and 2010.


    • Here is a map from Rollins and Stein, showing their interpretations of different historic earthquakes in the region. This was published in response to the Januray 2010 Gorda plate earthquake. The faults are from Chaytor et al. (2004).

    • Tectonic configuration of the Gorda deformation zone and locations and source models for 1976–2010 M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes. Letters designate chronological order of earthquakes (Table 1 and Appendix A). Plate motion vectors relative to the Pacific Plate (gray arrows in main diagram) are from Wilson [1989], with Cande and Kent’s [1995] timescale correction.

    • Here is a large scale map of the 1994 earthquake swarm. The mainshock epicenter is a black star and epicenters are denoted as white circles.

    • Here is a plot of focal mechanisms from the Dengler et al. (1995) paper in California Geology.

      • In this map below, I label a number of other significant earthquakes in this Mendocino triple junction region. Another historic right-lateral earthquake on the Mendocino fault system was in 1994. There was a series of earthquakes possibly along the easternmost section of the Mendocino fault system in late January 2015, here is my post about that earthquake series.

      • Here is a map from Chaytor et al. (2004) that shows some details of the faulting in the region. The moment tensor (at the moment i write this) shows a north-south striking fault with a reverse or thrust faulting mechanism. While this region of faulting is dominated by strike slip faults (and most all prior earthquake moment tensors showed strike slip earthquakes), when strike slip faults bend, they can create compression (transpression) and extension (transtension). This transpressive or transtentional deformation may produce thrust/reverse earthquakes or normal fault earthquakes, respectively. The transverse ranges north of Los Angeles are an example of uplift/transpression due to the bend in the San Andreas fault in that region.

      • A: Mapped faults and fault-related ridges within Gorda plate based on basement structure and surface morphology, overlain on bathymetric contours (gray lines—250 m interval). Approximate boundaries of three structural segments are also shown. Black arrows indicated approximate location of possible northwest- trending large-scale folds. B, C: uninterpreted and interpreted enlargements of center of plate showing location of interpreted second-generation strike-slip faults and features that they appear to offset. OSC—overlapping spreading center.

      • These are the models for tectonic deformation within the Gorda plate as presented by Jason Chaytor in 2004.
      • Mw = 5 Trinidad Chaytor

        Models of brittle deformation for Gorda plate overlain on magnetic anomalies modified from Raff and Mason (1961). Models A–F were proposed prior to collection and analysis of full-plate multibeam data. Deformation model of Gulick et al. (2001) is included in model A. Model G represents modification of Stoddard’s (1987) flexural-slip model proposed in this paper.

    Further North

    If we move a little further north, we can take a look at the Blanco fault. This is a right-lateral strike-slip fault just like the Mendocino and San Andreas faults.
    If we turn our head at an oblique angle, we may consider the San Andreas, the Mendocino, and the Blanco faults to be all part of the same transform fault.
    Transform faults are often (or solely) defined as a strike-slip fault system that terminates at each end with a spreading ridge. These 3 systems link spreading ridges in the Gulf of California, through the Gorda Rise, to the Juan de Fuca ridge (and further).
    The Blanco fault is as, or more active than the Mendocino fault. The excellent people in Oregon who are aware of their exposure to seismic and tsunami hazards from the Cascadia subduction zone are always interested when there are earthquake notifications.
    Earthquakes on the Blanco fault are some of these events that people notice and ask about, “should I be concerned?” The answer is generally, “those earthquakes are too far away and too small to change the chance of the “Big One.” (remember the discussion about dynamic triggering above?)
    There was a recent earthquake (2018) on the Blanco fault that brought the public to question this again. My report about that earthquake spent a little space addressing these fault length >> magnitude >> triggering issues.
    As we know, the tectonics of the northeast Pacific is dominated by the Cascadia subduction zone, a convergent plate boundary, where the Explorer, Juan de Fuca, and Gorda oceanic plates dive eastward beneath the North America plate.
    These oceanic plates are created (formed, though I love writing “created” in science writing) at oceanic spreading ridges/centers.
    When oceanic spreading centers are offset laterally, a strike-slip fault forms called a transform fault. The Blanco transform fault is a right-lateral strike-slip fault (like the San Andreas fault). Thanks to Dr. Harold Tobin for pointing out why this is not a fracture zone.

    • This is the figure from Dziak et al. (2000) for us to evaluate. I include their long figure caption below.

    • (Top) Sea Beam bathymetric map of the Cascadia Depression, Blanco Ridge, and Gorda Depression, eastern Blanco Transform Fault Zone (BTFZ).Multibeam bathymetry was collected by the NOAA R/V’s Surveyor and Discoverer and the R/V Laney Chouest during 12 cruises in the 1980’s and 90’s. Bathymetry displayed using a 500 m grid interval. Numbers with arrows show look directions of three-dimensional diagrams in Figures 2 and 3. (Bottom) Structure map, interpreted from bathymetry, showing active faults and major geologic features of the region. Solid lines represent faults, dashed lines are fracture zones, and dotted lines show course of turbidite channels. When possible to estimate sense of motion on a fault, a filled circle shows the down-thrown side. Inset maps show location and generalized geologic structure of the BTFZ. Location of seismic reflection and gravity/magnetics profiles indicated by opposing brackets. D-D’ and E-E’ are the seismic reflection profiles shown in Figures 8a and 8b, and G-G’ is the gravity and magnetics profile shown in Figure 13. Submersible dive tracklines from sites 1 through 4 are highlighted in red. L1 and L2 are two lineations seen in three-dimensional bathymetry shown in Figures 2 and 3. Location of two Blanco Ridge slump scars indicated by half-rectangles, inferred direction of slump shown by arrow, and debris location (when identified) designated by an ‘S’. CD stands for Cascadia Depression, BR is Blanco Ridge, GD is Gorda Depression, and GR is Gorda Ridge. Numbers on north and south side of transform represent Juan de Fuca and Pacific plate crustal ages inferred from magnetic anomalies. Long-term plate motion rate between the Pacific and southern Juan de Fuca plates from Wilson (1989).

    When there are quakes on the BF, people always wonder if the Cascadia megathrust is affected by this… “are we at greater risk because of those BF earthquakes?”
    The main take away is that we are not at a greater risk because of these earthquakes.

    • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity plotted, for earthquakes of magnitude M ≥ 6.0 for the 29 Aug 2019 M 6.3 Blanco fault earthquake.

    • The poster includes earthquake information for earthquakes with M ≥ 6.0. I prepared this for a magnitude M 6.2 Blanco fault earthquake on 22 August 2018. I place fault mechanisms for all existing USGS mechanisms from the Blanco fracture zone and I include some examples from the rest of the region. These other mechanisms show how different areas have different tectonic regimes. Earthquakes within the Gorda plate are largely responding to being deformed in a tectonic die between the surrounding stronger plates (northeast striking (oriented) left-lateral strike-slip earthquakes). I include one earthquake along the Mendocino fracture zone, a right-lateral (dextral) strike-slip earthquake from 1994. I include one of the more memorable thrust earthquakes, the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquake. I also include an extensional earthquake from central Oregon that may represent extension (basin and range?) in the northwestern region of the basin and range.


    Social Media

    References:

    Basic & General References

  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Hayes, G., 2018, Slab2 – A Comprehensive Subduction Zone Geometry Model: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7PV6JNV.
  • Holt, W. E., C. Kreemer, A. J. Haines, L. Estey, C. Meertens, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2005), Project helps constrain continental dynamics and seismic hazards, Eos Trans. AGU, 86(41), 383–387, , https://doi.org/10.1029/2005EO410002. /li>
  • Jessee, M.A.N., Hamburger, M. W., Allstadt, K., Wald, D. J., Robeson, S. M., Tanyas, H., et al. (2018). A global empirical model for near-real-time assessment of seismically induced landslides. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123, 1835–1859. https://doi.org/10.1029/2017JF004494
  • Kreemer, C., J. Haines, W. Holt, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2000), On the determination of a global strain rate model, Geophys. J. Int., 52(10), 765–770.
  • Kreemer, C., W. E. Holt, and A. J. Haines (2003), An integrated global model of present-day plate motions and plate boundary deformation, Geophys. J. Int., 154(1), 8–34, , https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-246X.2003.01917.x.
  • Kreemer, C., G. Blewitt, E.C. Klein, 2014. A geodetic plate motion and Global Strain Rate Model in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 15, p. 3849-3889, https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GC005407.
  • Meyer, B., Saltus, R., Chulliat, a., 2017. EMAG2: Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid (2-arc-minute resolution) Version 3. National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA. Model. https://doi.org/10.7289/V5H70CVX
  • Müller, R.D., Sdrolias, M., Gaina, C. and Roest, W.R., 2008, Age spreading rates and spreading asymmetry of the world’s ocean crust in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, Q04006, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GC001743
  • Pagani,M. , J. Garcia-Pelaez, R. Gee, K. Johnson, V. Poggi, R. Styron, G. Weatherill, M. Simionato, D. Viganò, L. Danciu, D. Monelli (2018). Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Seismic Hazard Map (version 2018.1 – December 2018), DOI: 10.13117/GEM-GLOBAL-SEISMIC-HAZARD-MAP-2018.1
  • Silva, V ., D Amo-Oduro, A Calderon, J Dabbeek, V Despotaki, L Martins, A Rao, M Simionato, D Viganò, C Yepes, A Acevedo, N Horspool, H Crowley, K Jaiswal, M Journeay, M Pittore, 2018. Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Seismic Risk Map (version 2018.1). https://doi.org/10.13117/GEM-GLOBAL-SEISMIC-RISK-MAP-2018.1
  • Zhu, J., Baise, L. G., Thompson, E. M., 2017, An Updated Geospatial Liquefaction Model for Global Application, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 107, p 1365-1385, https://doi.org/0.1785/0120160198
  • Specific References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Dziak, R.P., and Fox, C.G., 2004. Active deformation of the Gorda plate: Constraining deformation models with new geophysical data: Geology v. 32, p. 353-356.
  • Dengler, L.A., Moley, K.M., McPherson, R.C., Pasyanos, M., Dewey, J.W., and Murray, M., 1995. The September 1, 1994 Mendocino Fault Earthquake, California Geology, Marc/April 1995, p. 43-53.
  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • McCrory, P.A.,. Blair, J.L., Waldhauser, F., kand Oppenheimer, D.H., 2012. Juan de Fuca slab geometry and its relation to Wadati-Benioff zone seismicity in JGR, v. 117, B09306, doi:10.1029/2012JB009407.
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • Nelson, A.R., Asquith, A.C., and Grant, W.C., 2004. Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Past 2000 Years at the Salmon River Estuary, Central Oregon Coast, USA: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 1276–1292
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1988/1434/].
  • Wells, D.L., and Coopersmith, K.J., 1994. New empirical relationships among magnitude, rupture length, rupture width, rupture area, and surface displacement in BSSA, v. 84, no. 4, p. 974-1002

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.


Earthquake Report: Salt Lake City

As I was waking up this morning, I rolled over to check my social media feed and moments earlier there was a good sized shaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. I immediately thought of my good friend Jennifer G. who lives there with her children. I immediately started looking into this earthquake.
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/uu60363602/executive
The second thing I thought of was Chris DuRoss, a USGS geologist I first met when he was presenting his research of the record of prehistoric earthquakes along the Wasatch fault at the Seismological Society of America (SSA) meeting that was being held in SLC that year. Gosh, that was in 2013. My, how time passes. Dr. DuRoss now works for the USGS and continues to research the seismic hazards of the intermountain west and beyond from his office in Golden, Colorado.
The third thing I thought of was all the buildings in the SLC area that are not designed to withstand the shaking from the earthquakes that we expect will occur on that fault system. About 85% of the population of the state of Utah lives within 15 miles of the Wasatch fault. This is sobering.
I quickly put together a poster for this earthquake to help people learn a little more. I have a second earthquake to interpret tonight, so I will update this report later with more background on the Wasatch fault tectonics and seismic hazard.
There is also a great resource from the University of Utah, an event page for this earthquake sequence.

Tectonic Background

The west coast of the United States and Mexico is dominated by the plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates. Many are familiar with the big players in this system:

  • The right-lateral transform fault zone called the San Andreas fault (SAF) where the North America plate on the east moves south relative to the Pacific plate. They are both moving north-ish, but the Pacific plate is moving “North” faster than the North America plate.
  • The convergent plate boundary called the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) where the Gorda, Juan de Fuca, and Explorer plates are diving beneath the North America plate, forming a megathrust subduction fault system.

There are many other faults that are also part of this plate boundary system. The San Andreas fault zone “proper” accommodates about 85% of the relative plate motion. The rest of the relative plate motion (15%) is accounted for by slip on other strike-slip fault systems.
There are “sibling” faults to the SAF near the SAF (like the Hayward fault in the San Francisco Bay Area) and further away (like the Eastern California shear zone, the Owens Valley fault, and the Walker Lane fault systems).
Just like Dr. Steve Wesnousky showed us, the crust in the Walker Lane is moving around like a layer of solid wax floating around on a tray of melted wax. So, there are faults in lots of different kinds of directions, and different kinds of faults too.
The easternmost right-lateral strike slip fault is the Wasatch fault.
East of Sierra Nevada. in Nevada and western Utah, there is lots of East-West oriented extension (i.e. the Basin and Range) where the crust in western Nevada is moving west compared to the crust in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Wasatch is also one of these extensional faults we call Normal faults.
In Salt Lake City, the Wasatch fault is oriented roughly north-south and is generally located on the eastern side of the valley, near the base of the mountains. The Crust on the western side of the fault is moving west relative to the mountains.
The fault then dips down towards the west. Because the motion is east-west, and the fault dips at an angle, the valley goes down over time relative to the mountains (thus forming the valley).
Today’s earthquake happened in the middle of the valley, where the Wasatch fault is deep beneath. The earthquake was a “normal” fault earthquake with east-west extension. So, the earthquake and aftershocks are on a fault related to the Wasatch (or we are wrong about the precise location of the fault, the earthquake, or both).
The USGS has an earthquake forecast product where the scientists at the Earthquake Center use a statistical model to estimate the possibility of earthquakes of different magnitude ranges may occur in the future over ranges of time periods after the main earthquake.
Don’t run outside during an earthquake.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

  • I plot the seismicity from the past month, with diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1919-2019 with magnitudes M ≥ 3.0 in one version.
  • I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.
  • A review of the basic base map variations and data that I use for the interpretive posters can be found on the Earthquake Reports page.
  • Some basic fundamentals of earthquake geology and plate tectonics can be found on the Earthquake Plate Tectonic Fundamentals page.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the lower right corner is a map of the western USA with USGS seismicity from the past century for earthquakes M 5.5+. Note all the north-south oriented lines in Nevada and Utah. These are formed by all the normal faults from the east-west extension in the basin and range.
  • In the upper right corner is a map of the Salt Lake City (SLC) area. The Great Salt Lake is the large light blue bleb in the upper right. We can see the mountains to the east of SLC, the Wasatch Range. The Earthquake Intensity uses the MMI scale (the colors), read more about this here. This map represents an estimate of ground shaking from the M 5.7 based on a statistical model using the results of tens of thousands of earthquakes.
  • In the upper left corner is a plot showing how these USGS models “predict” the ground shaking intensity will be relative to distance from the earthquake. These models are represented by the broan and green lines. People can fill out an online form to enter their observations and these “Did You Feel It?” observations are converted into an intensity number and these are plotted as dots in this figure.
  • In the left-center is a map from DuRoss et al. (2016) that shows the Wasatch fault along the base of the Wasatch Range. Note that the fault is subdivided into different segments. We think that sometimes these different segments may rupture at different times and sometimes some of them may rupture at the same time.I placed a blue star in the location of today’s earthquake (projected onto the surface).
  • Here is the map with 1 year’s and 1 century’s seismicity plotted.

  • Two great resources for information about the tectonics of Utah are here:

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is the map from DuRoss et al. (2016).
  • The main fault is in red. There are additional faults, like the white lines west of Salt Lake City. These are traces of the West Valley fault zone (WVFZ). Note the next mountain range to the west (left) and that there is another north-south series of faults drawn at the base of those mountains too. This is the Oquirrh Great Salt Lake fault zone, a series of west dipping faults (just like the Wasatch fault)
  • The Wasatch fault is very long and notice how it is not continuous. One of the important things that we may want to know is if these all slip at the same time during an earthquake, or only some of them slip, or just one of them. This is one of the largest sources of uncertainty when it comes to estimating the seismic hazard of a region.
  • The authors (and others before them) subdivided the segments and these segments are labeled on this map.

  • Central segments of the WFZ (red), which have evidence of repeated Holocene surface-faulting earthquakes. Circles indicate sites with data that we reanalyzed using OxCal (abbreviations shown in Table 2); triangles indicate sites where data or documentation was inadequate for reanalysis (HC, Hobble Creek; PP, Pole Patch; WC, Water Canyon; WH, Woodland Hills). Other Quaternary faults in northern Utah (white lines) include the ECFZ, East Cache fault zone; OGSLFZ, Oquirrh Great Salt Lake fault zone; ULFF, Utah Lake faults and folds; WVFZ, West Valley fault zone. Fault traces are from Black et al. [2003]. Horizontal bars mark primary segment boundaries. Inset map shows the trace of the WFZ in northern Utah and southern Idaho.

  • This is a figure that shows what we think may be the way that these fault segments link (or not) through time (DuRoss et la., 2016).
  • The fault line map is on top (note how North is not always “up.”). The bottom chart aligns with the fault segments (along the north south distance represented by the red dashed and dotted line in the map).
  • The vertical axis is time in thousands of years ago (1950 is on the bottom and 7 thousand years ago is on top). Each blue bar represents the time that an earthquake may haven happened in the past and how those earthquakes may match the earthquake history of an adjacent segment.
  • If the blue bar on one segment matches the age range for an adjacent fault, that earthquake may have involved both segments. However due to the limitation with radiocarbon, we can never really know this.

  • Late Holocene surface-faulting earthquakes identified at trench sites along the central WFZ. Circles with labels indicate sites with data that were reanalyzed using OxCal, and unlabeled white triangles indicate sites where data or documentation was inadequate for reanalysis. Distance is measured along simplified fault trace (dash dotted line) shown in top panel. Individual earthquake-timing probability density functions (PDFs) and mean times are derived from OxCal models for the paleoseismic sites; number in brackets is event number, where one is the youngest.

  • Here is a cross section, showing us what we think may be how the faults extend beneath the ground surface. Drt, DuRoss tweeted this today.
  • The Wasatch fault begins on the right, at the base of the Wasatch Mountains and dips to the west (to the left) beneath Salt Lake City.
  • There are additional (antithetic) faults dipping to the east and these are called the West Valley fault zone. They are also normal faults formed from extension.
  • These faults are plotted in white in the above map.
  • The earthquake location is also plotted using two different information sources. According to Dr. RuRoss, these earthquakes may have happened on a previously unknown fault.

Earthquake Triggered Landslides

    There are many different ways in which a landslide can be triggered. The first order relations behind slope failure (landslides) is that the “resisting” forces that are preventing slope failure (e.g. the strength of the bedrock or soil) are overcome by the “driving” forces that are pushing this land downwards (e.g. gravity). The ratio of resisting forces to driving forces is called the Factor of Safety (FOS). We can write this ratio like this:

    FOS = Resisting Force / Driving Force

    When FOS > 1, the slope is stable and when FOS < 1, the slope fails and we get a landslide. The illustration below shows these relations. Note how the slope angle α can take part in this ratio (the steeper the slope, the greater impact of the mass of the slope can contribute to driving forces). The real world is more complicated than the simplified illustration below.


    Landslide ground shaking can change the Factor of Safety in several ways that might increase the driving force or decrease the resisting force. Keefer (1984) studied a global data set of earthquake triggered landslides and found that larger earthquakes trigger larger and more numerous landslides across a larger area than do smaller earthquakes. Earthquakes can cause landslides because the seismic waves can cause the driving force to increase (the earthquake motions can “push” the land downwards), leading to a landslide. In addition, ground shaking can change the strength of these earth materials (a form of resisting force) with a process called liquefaction.
    Sediment or soil strength is based upon the ability for sediment particles to push against each other without moving. This is a combination of friction and the forces exerted between these particles. This is loosely what we call the “angle of internal friction.” Liquefaction is a process by which pore pressure increases cause water to push out against the sediment particles so that they are no longer touching.
    An analogy that some may be familiar with relates to a visit to the beach. When one is walking on the wet sand near the shoreline, the sand may hold the weight of our body generally pretty well. However, if we stop and vibrate our feet back and forth, this causes pore pressure to increase and we sink into the sand as the sand liquefies. Or, at least our feet sink into the sand.
    Below is a diagram showing how an increase in pore pressure can push against the sediment particles so that they are not touching any more. This allows the particles to move around and this is why our feet sink in the sand in the analogy above. This is also what changes the strength of earth materials such that a landslide can be triggered.


    Below is a diagram based upon a publication designed to educate the public about landslides and the processes that trigger them (USGS, 2004). Additional background information about landslide types can be found in Highland et al. (2008). There was a variety of landslide types that can be observed surrounding the earthquake region. So, this illustration can help people when they observing the landscape response to the earthquake whether they are using aerial imagery, photos in newspaper or website articles, or videos on social media. Will you be able to locate a landslide scarp or the toe of a landslide? This figure shows a rotational landslide, one where the land rotates along a curvilinear failure surface.

  • Here is a map that I put together using the data available from the USGS Earthquake Event pages. More about these models can be found here.
  • The map shows liquefaction susceptibility from the M 5.7 earthquake.
  • These models use empirical relations (earthquake data) between earthquake size, earthquake distance, and material properties of the Earth.
  • The largest assumption is that for the Earth materials. This model uses a global model for the seismic velocity in the upper 30 meters (i.e. the Vs30). This global model basically takes the topographic slope of the ground surface and converts that to Vs30. So, the model is basically based on a slope map. This is imperfect, but works moderately well at a global scale. A model based on real Earth material data would be much much better.

    References:

    Basic & General References

  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Hayes, G., 2018, Slab2 – A Comprehensive Subduction Zone Geometry Model: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7PV6JNV.
  • Holt, W. E., C. Kreemer, A. J. Haines, L. Estey, C. Meertens, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2005), Project helps constrain continental dynamics and seismic hazards, Eos Trans. AGU, 86(41), 383–387, , https://doi.org/10.1029/2005EO410002. /li>
  • Jessee, M.A.N., Hamburger, M. W., Allstadt, K., Wald, D. J., Robeson, S. M., Tanyas, H., et al. (2018). A global empirical model for near-real-time assessment of seismically induced landslides. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123, 1835–1859. https://doi.org/10.1029/2017JF004494
  • Kreemer, C., J. Haines, W. Holt, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2000), On the determination of a global strain rate model, Geophys. J. Int., 52(10), 765–770.
  • Kreemer, C., W. E. Holt, and A. J. Haines (2003), An integrated global model of present-day plate motions and plate boundary deformation, Geophys. J. Int., 154(1), 8–34, , https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-246X.2003.01917.x.
  • Kreemer, C., G. Blewitt, E.C. Klein, 2014. A geodetic plate motion and Global Strain Rate Model in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 15, p. 3849-3889, https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GC005407.
  • Meyer, B., Saltus, R., Chulliat, a., 2017. EMAG2: Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid (2-arc-minute resolution) Version 3. National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA. Model. https://doi.org/10.7289/V5H70CVX
  • Müller, R.D., Sdrolias, M., Gaina, C. and Roest, W.R., 2008, Age spreading rates and spreading asymmetry of the world’s ocean crust in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, Q04006, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GC001743
  • Pagani,M. , J. Garcia-Pelaez, R. Gee, K. Johnson, V. Poggi, R. Styron, G. Weatherill, M. Simionato, D. Viganò, L. Danciu, D. Monelli (2018). Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Seismic Hazard Map (version 2018.1 – December 2018), DOI: 10.13117/GEM-GLOBAL-SEISMIC-HAZARD-MAP-2018.1
  • Silva, V ., D Amo-Oduro, A Calderon, J Dabbeek, V Despotaki, L Martins, A Rao, M Simionato, D Viganò, C Yepes, A Acevedo, N Horspool, H Crowley, K Jaiswal, M Journeay, M Pittore, 2018. Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Seismic Risk Map (version 2018.1). https://doi.org/10.13117/GEM-GLOBAL-SEISMIC-RISK-MAP-2018.1
  • Zhu, J., Baise, L. G., Thompson, E. M., 2017, An Updated Geospatial Liquefaction Model for Global Application, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 107, p 1365-1385, https://doi.org/0.1785/0120160198
  • Specific References

  • DuRoss, C. B., S. F. Personius, A. J. Crone, S. S. Olig, M. D. Hylland, W. R. Lund, and D. P. Schwartz (2016), Fault segmentation: New concepts from the Wasatch Fault Zone, Utah, USA, J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, 121, 1131–1157, doi:10.1002/2015JB012519.

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.


Earthquake Report: Mendocino fault

I was in Humboldt County last week for the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group meeting. I stayed there working on my house that a previous tenant had left in quite a destroyed state (they moved in as friends of mine).
As I was grabbing a bite at Taqueria Bravo in Willits, I checked in on social media and noticed my friend Dave Bazard had posted moments earlier about an earthquake there. I had missed it by about 2 hours or so.
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/nc73351710/executive
Yesterday’s earthquake was a right-lateral strike-slip earthquake on the Mendocino fault system. The Mendocino fault is a strike-slip fault formed by the eastward motion of the Gorda plate relative to the westward motion of the Pacific plate. The last major damaging earthquake on the MF was in 1994.
Interestingly, this was the 6 year commemoration of the 2014 M 6.8 Gorda plate earthquake (the last large earthquake in the region).
Also, there was a similarly sized event on the MF in 2018.

    Big “take-aways” from this:

  • This earthquake did not affect the Cascadia megathrust subduction zone fault (too small of magnitude and too far away).
  • This earthquake did not generate an observable tsunami.
  • This earthquake changed the stress in the surrounding crust, but a very very small amount (in some places it increased stress on faults and in other places it decreased stresses on faults). However, the magnitude was small and this change in stress is probably short lived. I discuss this about a previous MF earthquake here. I spend more time on this topic for a Gorda plate earthquake here.

Here is a seismic selfie from Riley, a student at Humboldt State University (taking a geology course). This photo was posted on the HSU Dept. of Geology facebook page.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

  • I plot the seismicity from the past month, with diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1920-2020 with magnitudes M ≥ 3.5 in one version.
  • I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.
  • A review of the basic base map variations and data that I use for the interpretive posters can be found on the Earthquake Reports page.
  • Some basic fundamentals of earthquake geology and plate tectonics can be found on the Earthquake Plate Tectonic Fundamentals page.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the lower left corner is a legend, but to the right is an inset map of the Cascadia subduction zone (modified from Nelson et al., 2006). I place a blue star in the location of yesterday’s earthquake.
  • In the upper left corner is a small scale map showing the entire pacific northwest with some historic seismicity (up to central Oregon; I forgot to download the data from the entire region; there are other examples of this).
  • To the right of that is a map showing the USGS Did You Feel It observation results showing how broadly this earthquake was felt. My friend in Redding told me that they felt it. This made sense since the Mendocino fault points right at Redding, but it was also felt in southern California (probably from site amplification from sedimentary basins). The color is the same scale as in the legend for shaking intensity (MMI).
  • Here is the map with a week’s and century’s seismicity plotted. I include the USGS model for shaking intensity as a transparent overlay (with MMI intensities up to M 5 near the epicenter).

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • The USGS models earthquake intensity using what we often call “Ground Motion Prediction Equations.” Some prefer to change this terminology as the word “prediction” is problematic (because one cannot predict earthquakes).
  • Basically, the further away from an earthquake, the less one feels the shaking. These GMPE “intensity-distance” relations are based on the measurements of earthquake shaking from thousands of earthquakes. There are a variety of factors that control the ground shaking in addition to the distance.
  • The USGS has a “Did You Feel It?” system where people can submit their observations using an online questionnaire. These observations are converted to an intensity value using the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) scale. I explain this a little more here.
  • Here is a figure that I prepared using the USGS map of DYFI results. I also include a plot that shows how the intensity (vertical axis) decays with distance (horizontal axis) from the earthquake.

  • Here is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone, modified from Nelson et al. (2006). The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct north eastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. Sites where evidence of past earthquakes (paleoseismology) are denoted by white dots. Where there is also evidence for past CSZ tsunami, there are black dots. These paleoseismology sites are labeled (e.g. Humboldt Bay). Some submarine paleoseismology core sites are also shown as grey dots. The two main spreading ridges are not labeled, but the northern one is the Juan de Fuca ridge (where oceanic crust is formed for the Juan de Fuca plate) and the southern one is the Gorda rise (where the oceanic crust is formed for the Gorda plate).

  • Here is a version of the CSZ cross section alone (Plafker, 1972). This shows two parts of the earthquake cycle: the interseismic part (between earthquakes) and the coseismic part (during earthquakes). Regions that experience uplift during the interseismic period tend to experience subsidence during the coseismic period.

  • Here is a map from Rollins and Stein, showing their interpretations of different historic earthquakes in the region. This was published in response to the January 2010 Gorda plate earthquake. The faults are from Chaytor et al. (2004). The 1980, 1992, 1994, 2005, and 2010 earthquakes are plotted and labeled. I did not mention the 2010 earthquake, but it most likely was just like 1980 and 2005, a left-lateral strike-slip earthquake on a northeast striking fault.

  • Here is a large scale map of the 1994 earthquake swarm. The mainshock epicenter is a black star and epicenters are denoted as white circles.

  • Here is a plot of focal mechanisms from the Dengler et al. (1995) paper in California Geology.

  • In this map below, I label a number of other significant earthquakes in this Mendocino triple junction region. Another historic right-lateral earthquake on the Mendocino fault system was in 1994. There was a series of earthquakes possibly along the easternmost section of the Mendocino fault system in late January 2015, here is my post about that earthquake series.

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. We also can see how a subduction zone generates a tsunami. Atwater et al., 2005.

  • Here is an animation produced by the folks at Cal Tech following the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake. I have several posts about that earthquake here and here. One may learn more about this animation, as well as download this animation here.
  • This is the map used in the animation below. Earthquake epicenters are plotted (some with USGS moment tensors) for this region from 1917-2017 with M ≥ 6.5. I labeled the plates and shaded their general location in different colors.
  • I include some inset maps.
    • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004).
    • In the upper left corner is a map from Rollins and Stein (2010). They plot epicenters and fault lines involved in earthquakes between 1976 and 2010.


    Social Media

    References:

    Basic & General References

  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Hayes, G., 2018, Slab2 – A Comprehensive Subduction Zone Geometry Model: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7PV6JNV.
  • Holt, W. E., C. Kreemer, A. J. Haines, L. Estey, C. Meertens, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2005), Project helps constrain continental dynamics and seismic hazards, Eos Trans. AGU, 86(41), 383–387, , https://doi.org/10.1029/2005EO410002. /li>
  • Jessee, M.A.N., Hamburger, M. W., Allstadt, K., Wald, D. J., Robeson, S. M., Tanyas, H., et al. (2018). A global empirical model for near-real-time assessment of seismically induced landslides. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 123, 1835–1859. https://doi.org/10.1029/2017JF004494
  • Kreemer, C., J. Haines, W. Holt, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2000), On the determination of a global strain rate model, Geophys. J. Int., 52(10), 765–770.
  • Kreemer, C., W. E. Holt, and A. J. Haines (2003), An integrated global model of present-day plate motions and plate boundary deformation, Geophys. J. Int., 154(1), 8–34, , https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-246X.2003.01917.x.
  • Kreemer, C., G. Blewitt, E.C. Klein, 2014. A geodetic plate motion and Global Strain Rate Model in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 15, p. 3849-3889, https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GC005407.
  • Meyer, B., Saltus, R., Chulliat, a., 2017. EMAG2: Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid (2-arc-minute resolution) Version 3. National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA. Model. https://doi.org/10.7289/V5H70CVX
  • Müller, R.D., Sdrolias, M., Gaina, C. and Roest, W.R., 2008, Age spreading rates and spreading asymmetry of the world’s ocean crust in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, Q04006, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GC001743
  • Pagani,M. , J. Garcia-Pelaez, R. Gee, K. Johnson, V. Poggi, R. Styron, G. Weatherill, M. Simionato, D. Viganò, L. Danciu, D. Monelli (2018). Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Seismic Hazard Map (version 2018.1 – December 2018), DOI: 10.13117/GEM-GLOBAL-SEISMIC-HAZARD-MAP-2018.1
  • Silva, V ., D Amo-Oduro, A Calderon, J Dabbeek, V Despotaki, L Martins, A Rao, M Simionato, D Viganò, C Yepes, A Acevedo, N Horspool, H Crowley, K Jaiswal, M Journeay, M Pittore, 2018. Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Seismic Risk Map (version 2018.1). https://doi.org/10.13117/GEM-GLOBAL-SEISMIC-RISK-MAP-2018.1
  • Zhu, J., Baise, L. G., Thompson, E. M., 2017, An Updated Geospatial Liquefaction Model for Global Application, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 107, p 1365-1385, https://doi.org/0.1785/0120160198
  • Specific References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Dziak, R.P., and Fox, C.G., 2004. Active deformation of the Gorda plate: Constraining deformation models with new geophysical data: Geology v. 32, p. 353-356.
  • Dengler, L.A., Moley, K.M., McPherson, R.C., Pasyanos, M., Dewey, J.W., and Murray, M., 1995. The September 1, 1994 Mendocino Fault Earthquake, California Geology, Marc/April 1995, p. 43-53.
  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • McCrory, P.A.,. Blair, J.L., Waldhauser, F., kand Oppenheimer, D.H., 2012. Juan de Fuca slab geometry and its relation to Wadati-Benioff zone seismicity in JGR, v. 117, B09306, doi:10.1029/2012JB009407.
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • Nelson, A.R., Asquith, A.C., and Grant, W.C., 2004. Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Past 2000 Years at the Salmon River Estuary, Central Oregon Coast, USA: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 1276–1292
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1988/1434/].

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Earthquake Report: Mendocino triple junction

Well, I was on the road for 1.5 days (work party for the Community Village at the Oregon Country Fair). As I was driving home, there was a magnitude M 5.6 earthquake in coastal northern California.
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/nc73201181/executive
I didn’t realize this until I was almost home (finally hit the sack around 4 am).
This earthquake follows a sequence of quakes further to the northwest, however their timing is merely a coincidence. Let me repeat this. The M 5.6 earthquake is not related to the sequence of earthquakes along the Blanco fracture zone.
Contrary to what people have posted on social media, there was but a single earthquake. This earthquake happened beneath the area of Petrolia, nearby the 1991 Honeydew Earthquake. More about the Honeydew Earthquake can be found here.
This region also had a good sized shaker in 1992, the Cape Mendocino Earthquake, which led to the development of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. More about the Cape Mendocino Earthquake can be found on the 25th anniversary page here and in my earthquake report here.
The regional tectonics in coastal northern California are dominated by the Pacific-North America plate boundary. North of Cape Mendocino, this plate boundary is convergent and forms the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ). To the south of Cape Mendocino, the plate boundary is the right-lateral (dextral) San Andreas fault (SAF). Where these 2 fault systems meet, there is another plate boundary system, the right-lateral strike-slip Mendocino fault (don’t write Mendocino fracture zone on your maps!). Where these 3 systems meet is called the Mendocino triple junction (MTJ).
The MTJ is a complicated region as these plate boundaries overlap in ways that we still do not fully understand. Geologic mapping in the mid- to late-20th century provides some basic understanding of the long term history. However, recent discoveries have proven that this early work needs to be revisited as there are many unanswered questions (and some of this early work has been demonstrated to be incorrect). Long live science!
Last night’s M 5.6 temblor happened where one strand of the MF trends onshore (another strand bends towards the south). But, it also is where the SAF trends onshore. At this point, I am associating this earthquake with the MF (so, a right-lateral strike-slip earthquake). The mechanism suggest that this is not a SAF related earthquake. However, it is oriented in a way that it could be in the Gorda plate (making it a left-lateral strike-slip earthquake). However, this quake is at the southern edge of the Gorda plate (sedge), so it is unlikely this is a Gorda plate event.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 5.0 in one version.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab 2.0 contours plotted (Hayes, 2018), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

    Magnetic Anomalies

  • In the map below, I include a transparent overlay of the magnetic anomaly data from EMAG2 (Meyer et al., 2017). As oceanic crust is formed, it inherits the magnetic field at the time. At different points through time, the magnetic polarity (north vs. south) flips, the North Pole becomes the South Pole. These changes in polarity can be seen when measuring the magnetic field above oceanic plates. This is one of the fundamental evidences for plate spreading at oceanic spreading ridges (like the Gorda rise).
  • Regions with magnetic fields aligned like today’s magnetic polarity are colored red in the EMAG2 data, while reversed polarity regions are colored blue. Regions of intermediate magnetic field are colored light purple.
  • We can see the roughly ~north-south trends of these red and blue stripes in the Pacific plate. These lines are parallel to the ocean spreading ridges from where they were formed. The stripes disappear at the subduction zone because the oceanic crust with these anomalies is diving deep beneath the North America plate, so the magnetic anomalies from the overlying Sunda plate mask the evidence for the Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates.

    Global Strain

  • In a map below, I include a transparent overlay of the Global Strain Rate Map (Kreemer et al., 2014).
  • The mission of the Global Strain Rate Map (GSRM) project is to determine a globally self-consistent strain rate and velocity field model, consistent with geodetic and geologic field observations. The overall mission also includes:
    1. contributions of global, regional, and local models by individual researchers
    2. archive existing data sets of geologic, geodetic, and seismic information that can contribute toward a greater understanding of strain phenomena
    3. archive existing methods for modeling strain rates and strain transients
  • The completed global strain rate map will provide a large amount of information that is vital for our understanding of continental dynamics and for the quantification of seismic hazards.
  • The version used in the poster(s) below is an update to the original 2004 map (Kreemer et al., 2000, 2003; Holt et al., 2005).

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • n the upper left corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) and regional tectonic plate boundary faults. This is modified from several sources (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004)
    Below the CSZ map is an illustration modified from Plafker (1972). This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes.
  • In the lower right corner is a map that shows a comparison between the USGS Did You Feel It? reports and the USGS Modified Mercalli Intensity shakemap model. This comparison shows that the model is a decent fit for the reports from real people. If you felt the earthquake, please submit a report to the USGS here.
  • In the upper right corner I include a larger scale view of seismicity for this area. I highlight the important historic events (e.g. the 1991 Honeydew Earthquake and the 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake sequence.
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted.

  • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity plotted.

  • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity plotted along with the Global Strain Map with a 30% transparency.

  • Here is the educational interpretive poster from the 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake (report here).

  • The USGS has been increasing the list of products that are produced in association with their earthquake pages. One of these products is an earthquake forecast (not a prediction as nobody can predict earthquakes yet) that lists the chance of an earthquake with a given magnitude over a certain period of time. The forecast for the M 5.6 earthquake is found here. These forecasts are updated periodically, so the information will change with time. Below is a table where I present the forecast as it was when I checked the page this morning (would be nice if the USGS would produce an easy to read table).
  • From the USGS:

    Be ready for more earthquakes

    • More earthquakes than usual (called aftershocks) will continue to occur near the mainshock.
    • When there are more earthquakes, the chance of a large earthquake is greater which means that the chance of damage is greater.
    • The USGS advises everyone to be aware of the possibility of aftershocks, especially when in or around vulnerable structures such as unreinforced masonry buildings.
    • This earthquake could be part of a sequence. An earthquake sequence may have larger and potentially damaging earthquakes in the future, so remember to: Drop, Cover, and Hold on.

    What we think will happen next

    • According to our forecast, over the next 1 Week there is a < 1 % chance of one or more aftershocks that are larger than magnitude 5.6. It is likely that there will be smaller earthquakes over the next 1 Week, with 0 to 11 magnitude 3 or higher aftershocks. Magnitude 3 and above are large enough to be felt near the epicenter. The number of aftershocks will drop off over time, but a large aftershock can increase the numbers again, temporarily.

    About our earthquake forecasts

    • No one can predict the exact time or place of any earthquake, including aftershocks. Our earthquake forecasts give us an understanding of the chances of having more earthquakes within a given time period in the affected area. We calculate this earthquake forecast using a statistical analysis based on past earthquakes.
    • Our forecast changes as time passes due to decline in the frequency of aftershocks, larger aftershocks that may trigger further earthquakes, and changes in forecast modeling based on the data collected for this earthquake sequence.


  • Gosh, almost forgot to include this photo of the seismic waves recorded on the Humboldt State University Department of Geology Baby Benioff seismometer. Photo Credit: Amanda Admire.

USGS Landslide and Liquefaction Ground Failure data products

  • Below I present a series of maps that are intended to address the excellent ‘new’ products included in the USGS earthquake pages: landslide probability and liquefaction susceptibility (a.k.a. the Ground Failure data products).
  • First I present the landslide probability model. This is a GIS data product that relates a variety of factors to the probability (the chance of) landslides as triggered by this earthquake. There are a number of assumptions that are made in order to be able to produce this model across such a large region, though this is still of great value (like other aspects from teh USGS, e.g. the PAGER alert). Learn more about all of these Ground Failure products here.
  • There are many different ways in which a landslide can be triggered. The first order relations behind slope failure (landslides) is that the “resisting” forces that are preventing slope failure (e.g. the strength of the bedrock or soil) are overcome by the “driving” forces that are pushing this land downwards (e.g. gravity). I spend more time discussing landslides and liquefaction in this recent earthquake report.
  • This model, like all landslide computer models, uses similar inputs. I review these here:
    1. Some information about ground shaking. Often, people use Peak Ground Acceleration, though in the past decade+, it has been recognized that the parameter “Arias Intensity” is a better measure of the energy imparted by the earthquake across the land and seascape. Instead of simply accounting for the peak accelerations, AI integrates the entire energy (duration) during the earthquake. That being said, PGA is a more common parameter that is available for people to use. For example, when I was modeling slope stability for the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake, the only model that was calibrated to observational data were in units of PGA. The first order control to shaking intensity (energy observed at any particular location) is distance to the earthquake fault that slipped.
    2. Some information about the strength of the materials (e.g. angle of internal friction (the strength) and cohesion (the resistance).
    3. Information about the slope. Steeper slopes, with all other things being equal, are more likely to fail than are shallower slopes. Think about skiing. Beginners (like me) often choose shallower slopes to ski because they will go down the slope slower, while experts choose steeper slopes.
  • Areas that are red are more likely to experience landslides than areas that are colored blue. I include a coarse resolution topographic/bathymetric dataset to help us identify where the mountains are relative to the coastal plain and continental shelf (submarine).

  • Landslide ground shaking can change the Factor of Safety in several ways that might increase the driving force or decrease the resisting force. Keefer (1984) studied a global data set of earthquake triggered landslides and found that larger earthquakes trigger larger and more numerous landslides across a larger area than do smaller earthquakes. Earthquakes can cause landslides because the seismic waves can cause the driving force to increase (the earthquake motions can “push” the land downwards), leading to a landslide. In addition, ground shaking can change the strength of these earth materials (a form of resisting force) with a process called liquefaction.
  • Sediment or soil strength is based upon the ability for sediment particles to push against each other without moving. This is a combination of friction and the forces exerted between these particles. This is loosely what we call the “angle of internal friction.” Liquefaction is a process by which pore pressure increases cause water to push out against the sediment particles so that they are no longer touching.
  • An analogy that some may be familiar with relates to a visit to the beach. When one is walking on the wet sand near the shoreline, the sand may hold the weight of our body generally pretty well. However, if we stop and vibrate our feet back and forth, this causes pore pressure to increase and we sink into the sand as the sand liquefies. Or, at least our feet sink into the sand.
  • The liquefaction susceptibility map for the M 5.6 earthquake did not suggest that there would be possibly much liquefaction from this earthquake (probably due to the small magnitude). I discuss liquefaction more in my earthquake report on the 28 September 20018 Sulawesi, Indonesia earthquake, landslide, and tsunami here.
  • Here is a map that shows shaking intensity using the MMI scale (mentioned and plotted in the main earthquake poster maps). I present this here in the same format as the ground failure model maps so we can compare these other maps with the ground shaking model (which is a first order control on slope failure).

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone, modified from Nelson et al. (2006). The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. Sites where evidence of past earthquakes (paleoseismology) are denoted by white dots. Where there is also evidence for past CSZ tsunami, there are black dots. These paleoseismology sites are labeled (e.g. Humboldt Bay). Some submarine paleoseismology core sites are also shown as grey dots. The two main spreading ridges are not labeled, but the northern one is the Juan de Fuca ridge (where oceanic crust is formed for the Juan de Fuca plate) and the southern one is the Gorda rise (where the oceanic crust is formed for the Gorda plate).

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes.

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. We also can see how a subduction zone generates a tsunami. Atwater et al., 2005.

  • Here is an animation produced by the folks at Cal Tech following the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake. I have several posts about that earthquake here and here. One may learn more about this animation, as well as download this animation here.
  • This is the map used in the animation below. Earthquake epicenters are plotted (some with USGS moment tensors) for this region from 1917-2017 with M ≥ 6.5. I labeled the plates and shaded their general location in different colors.
  • I include some inset maps.
    • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004).
    • In the upper left corner is a map from Rollins and Stein (2010). They plot epicenters and fault lines involved in earthquakes between 1976 and 2010.


Geologic Fundamentals

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechanisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).

  • Here is another way to look at these beach balls.
  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This is an image from the USGS that shows how, when an oceanic plate moves over a hotspot, the volcanoes formed over the hotspot form a series of volcanoes that increase in age in the direction of plate motion. The presumption is that the hotspot is stable and stays in one location. Torsvik et al. (2017) use various methods to evaluate why this is a false presumption for the Hawaii Hotspot.

  • A cutaway view along the Hawaiian island chain showing the inferred mantle plume that has fed the Hawaiian hot spot on the overriding Pacific Plate. The geologic ages of the oldest volcano on each island (Ma = millions of years ago) are progressively older to the northwest, consistent with the hot spot model for the origin of the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain. (Modified from image of Joel E. Robinson, USGS, in “This Dynamic Planet” map of Simkin and others, 2006.)

  • Here is a map from Torsvik et al. (2017) that shows the age of volcanic rocks at different locations along the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount Chain.

  • Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. White dots are the locations of radiometrically dated seamounts, atolls and islands, based on compilations of Doubrovine et al. and O’Connor et al. Features encircled with larger white circles are discussed in the text and Fig. 2. Marine gravity anomaly map is from Sandwell and Smith.

  • Here is a great tweet that discusses the different parts of a seismogram and how the internal structures of the Earth help control seismic waves as they propagate in the Earth.

    Social Media

    References:

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Goldfinger, C., Nelson, C.H., Morey, A., Johnson, J.E., Gutierrez-Pastor, J., Eriksson, A.T., Karabanov, E., Patton, J., Gràcia, E., Enkin, R., Dallimore, A., Dunhill, G., and Vallier, T., 2012 a. Turbidite Event History: Methods and Implications for Holocene Paleoseismicity of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, USGS Professional Paper # 1661F. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, 184 pp.
  • Dengler, L.A., and McPherson, R.C., 1993. The 17 August 1991 Honeydew Earthquake, North Coast California: A Case for Revising the Modified Mercalli Scale in Sparsely Populated Areas in BSSA, v. 83, no. 4, pp. 1081-1094
  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Hayes, G., 2018, Slab2 – A Comprehensive Subduction Zone Geometry Model: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7PV6JNV.
  • Holt, W. E., C. Kreemer, A. J. Haines, L. Estey, C. Meertens, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2005), Project helps constrain continental dynamics and seismic hazards, Eos Trans. AGU, 86(41), 383–387, , https://doi.org/10.1029/2005EO410002. /li>
  • Kreemer, C., J. Haines, W. Holt, G. Blewitt, and D. Lavallee (2000), On the determination of a global strain rate model, Geophys. J. Int., 52(10), 765–770.
  • Kreemer, C., W. E. Holt, and A. J. Haines (2003), An integrated global model of present-day plate motions and plate boundary deformation, Geophys. J. Int., 154(1), 8–34, , https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-246X.2003.01917.x.
  • Kreemer, C., G. Blewitt, E.C. Klein, 2014. A geodetic plate motion and Global Strain Rate Model in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 15, p. 3849-3889, https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GC005407.
  • McCrory, P.A., 2000, Upper plate contraction north of the migrating Mendocino triple junction, northern California: Implications for partitioning of strain: Tectonics, v. 19, p. 11441160.
  • McCrory, P. A., Blair, J. L., Oppenheimer, D. H., and Walter, S. R., 2006, Depth to the Juan de Fuca slab beneath the Cascadia subduction margin; a 3-D model for sorting earthquakes U. S. Geological Survey
  • Meyer, B., Saltus, R., Chulliat, a., 2017. EMAG2: Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid (2-arc-minute resolution) Version 3. National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA. Model. https://doi.org/10.7289/V5H70CVX
  • Müller, R.D., Sdrolias, M., Gaina, C. and Roest, W.R., 2008, Age spreading rates and spreading asymmetry of the world’s ocean crust in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, Q04006, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GC001743
  • Nelson, A.R., Kelsey, H.M., Witter, R.C., 2006. Great earthquakes of variable magnitude at the Cascadia subduction zone. Quaternary Research 65, 354-365.
  • Oppenheimer, D., Beroza, G., Carver, G., Dengler, L., Eaton, J., Gee, L., Gonzalez, F., Jayko, A., Ki., W.H., Lisowski, M., Magee, M., Marshall, G., Murray, M., McPherson, R., Romanowicz, B., Satake, K., Simpson, R., Somerille, P., Stein, R., and Valentine, D., The Cape Mendocino, California, Earthquakes of April, 1992: Subduction at the Triple Junction in Science, v. 261, no. 5120, p. 433-438.
  • Patton, J. R., Goldfinger, C., Morey, A. E., Romsos, C., Black, B., Djadjadihardja, Y., and Udrekh, 2013. Seismoturbidite record as preserved at core sites at the Cascadia and Sumatra–Andaman subduction zones, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 833-867, doi:10.5194/nhess-13-833-2013, 2013.
  • Plafker, G., 1972. Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and Chilean earthquake of 1960: Implications for arc tectonics in Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 77, p. 901-925.
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stein, R.S., Marshall, G.A., Murray, M.H., Balazs, E., Carver, G.A., Dunklin, T.A>, McLaughlin, R.J., Cyr, K., and Jayko, A., 1993. Permanent Ground Movement Associate with the 1992 M=7 Cape Mendocino, California, Earthquake: Implications for Damage to Infrastructure and Hazards to navigation, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-383.
  • Wang, K., Wells, R., Mazzotti, S., Hyndman, R. D., and Sagiya, T., 2003, A revised dislocation model of interseismic deformation of the Cascadia subduction zone Journal of Geophysical Research, B, Solid Earth and Planets v. 108, no. 1.

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.


Earthquake Report: Laytonville (northern CA)!

This morning there was a small earthquake in a region of northern California between two major faults that are part of the Pacific-North America plate boundary. The M 4.3 earthquake occurred between the San Andreas fault (SAF) to the west and the Maacma fault (MF) to the east. There are no mapped earthquake faults in this region.
The San Andreas fault is a right-lateral strike-slip transform plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates. The plate boundary is composed of faults that are parallel to sub-parallel to the SAF and extend from the west coast of CA to the Wasatch fault (WF) system in central Utah (the WF runs through Salt Lake City and is expressed by the mountain range on the east side of the basin that Salt Lake City is built within).
About 75% of the relative plate motion is accommodated along the SAF and its synthetic sister faults in the northern CA region. The rest of the plate boundary motion is accommodated along the Eastern CA shear zone and Walker Lane, along with the Central Nevada Seismic Belt, and the Wasatch fault systems. In Northern CA, there is about 33-37 mm/yr strain accumulated on the SAF plate boundary system. About 18-25 mm/yr is on the SAF, 8-11 mm/yr on the MF, and 5-7 mm/yr on the Bartlett Springs fault system (Geist and Andrews, 2000).
The three main faults in the region north of San Francisco are the SAF, the MF, and the Bartlett Springs fault (BSF). I also place a graphical depiction of the USGS moment tensor for this earthquake. The SAF, MF, and BSF are all right lateral strike-slip fault systems. There are no active faults mapped in the region of Sunday’s epicenter, but I interpret this earthquake to have right-lateral slip. Without more seismicity or mapped faults to suggest otherwise, this is a reasonable interpretation.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M > 4.0.
I use the USGS Quaternary fault and fold database for the faults. I outlined the Vizcaino Block, which many interpret to be a prehistoric subduction zone accretionary prism from a time before the San Andreas existed.
I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue) for some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely. Based upon the tectonics associated with the San Andreas and Maacama faults, I interpret this M 4.3 earthquake to be a right-lateral strike-slip fault.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (McCrory et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.
  • Here are the USGS pages for the main earthquake in this sequence.
  • 2017.12.14 M 4.3
  • 2016.11.06 M 4.1
  • 2012.07.08 M 4.4
  • 1999.01.24 M 4.1
  • I include some inset figures.

  • In the upper right corner I include a map and cross section from Wallace (1990). The map shows earthquake epicenters, the major faults, and outlines delineating the regions from which seismicity is plotted in various cross sectional views. Below the map is the cross section E-E.’ Seismicity associated with the MF and Bartlett Springs fault are fairly obvious, while seismicity associated with the SAF is less localized along the fault (probably because the fault is offshore, the smaller magnitude seismicity does not plot here). I place blue stars on the map and on the cross section, in the general location of today’s M 4.3 earthquake.
  • In the upper left corner I include generalized fault map of northern California from Wallace (1990). I place a blue star in the general location of today’s M 4.3 earthquake.
  • To the right of the Wallace (1990) map, is a figure from Langenheim et al., 2013. Langenheim et al. (2013) used magnetic anomalies to break out structural domains within the Cretaceous Franciscan Formation, the main basement geology in this region of northern California. There are some folds in the Franciscan Formation, with dips interpreted from the anomaly data. Today’s M 4.3 earthquake (the larger blue star) is located along the boundary of domains 1 and 2. The 1999.01.24 M 4.1 earthquake (smaller blue star)is within domain 1, is a thrust earthquake, and is oriented correctly to be associated with the thrust faults here. Perhaps these faults are being reactivated in the modern SAF dextral regime.
  • In the lower left corner I include a larger scale map showing the details of the mapped faults.
  • To the right of this large scale map, I include the Earthquake Shaking Potential map from the state of California. This is a probabilistic seismic hazard map, basically a map that shows the likelihood that there will be shaking of a given amount over a period of time. More can be found from the California Geological Survey here. I place a blue star in the approximate location of today’s earthquake.


Below are some earthquake report posters for earthquakes in this region.

  • Earlier in November 2016, there was an earthquake in this region. Below is my interpretive poster for that earthquake. Here is my Earthquake Report.

  • Earlier the year in 2016, there was an earthquake in this region, along the BSF. Below is my interpretive poster for that earthquake. Here is my Earthquake Report.

  • In 2015 there was an earthquake in this region. Below is my interpretive poster for that earthquake. Here is my Earthquake Report.


  • I place a map shows the configuration of faults in central (San Francisco) and northern (Point Delgada – Punta Gorda) CA (Wallace, 1990). Here is the caption for this map, that is on the lower left corner of my map. Below the citation is this map presented on its own.

  • Geologic sketch map of the northern Coast Ranges, central California, showing faults with Quaternary activity and basin deposits in northern section of the San Andreas fault system. Fault patterns are generalized, and only major faults are shown. Several Quaternary basins are fault bounded and aligned parallel to strike-slip faults, a relation most apparent along the Hayward-Rodgers Creek-Maacama fault trend.

  • Here is a map from McLaughlin et al. (2012) that shows the regional faulting. I include the figure caption as a blockquote below.

  • Maps showing the regional setting of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama fault system and the San Andreas fault in northern California. (A) The Maacama (MAFZ) and Rodgers Creek (RCFZ) fault zones and related faults (dark red) are compared to the San Andreas fault, former and present positions of the Mendocino Fracture Zone (MFZ; light red, offshore), and other structural features of northern California. Other faults east of the San Andreas fault that are part of the wide transform margin are collectively referred to as the East Bay fault system and include the Hayward and proto-Hayward fault zones (green) and the Calaveras (CF), Bartlett Springs, and several other faults (teal). Fold axes (dark blue) delineate features associated with compression along the northern and eastern sides of the Coast Ranges. Dashed brown line marks inferred location of the buried tip of an east-directed tectonic wedge system along the boundary between the Coast Ranges and Great Valley (Wentworth et al., 1984; Wentworth and Zoback, 1990). Dotted purple line shows the underthrust south edge of the Gorda–Juan de Fuca plate, based on gravity and aeromagnetic data (Jachens and Griscom, 1983). Late Cenozoic volcanic rocks are shown in pink; structural basins associated with strike-slip faulting and Sacramento Valley are shown in yellow. Motions of major fault blocks and plates relative to fi xed North America, from global positioning system and paleomagnetic studies (Argus and Gordon, 2001; Wells and Simpson, 2001; U.S. Geological Survey, 2010), shown with thick black arrows; circled numbers denote rate (in mm/yr). Restraining bend segment of the northern San Andreas fault is shown in orange; releasing bend segment is in light blue. Additional abbreviations: BMV—Burdell Mountain Volcanics; QSV—Quien Sabe Volcanics. (B) Simplifi ed map of color-coded faults in A, delineating the principal fault systems and zones referred to in this paper.

  • Here is the figure showing the evolution of the SAF since its inception about 29 Ma. I include the USGS figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • EVOLUTION OF THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT.
    This series of block diagrams shows how the subduction zone along the west coast of North America transformed into the San Andreas Fault from 30 million years ago to the present. Starting at 30 million years ago, the westward- moving North American Plate began to override the spreading ridge between the Farallon Plate and the Pacific Plate. This action divided the Farallon Plate into two smaller plates, the northern Juan de Fuca Plate (JdFP) and the southern Cocos Plate (CP). By 20 million years ago, two triple junctions began to migrate north and south along the western margin of the West Coast. (Triple junctions are intersections between three tectonic plates; shown as red triangles in the diagrams.) The change in plate configuration as the North American Plate began to encounter the Pacific Plate resulted in the formation of the San Andreas Fault. The northern Mendicino Triple Junction (M) migrated through the San Francisco Bay region roughly 12 to 5 million years ago and is presently located off the coast of northern California, roughly midway between San Francisco (SF) and Seattle (S). The Mendicino Triple Junction represents the intersection of the North American, Pacific, and Juan de Fuca Plates. The southern Rivera Triple Junction (R) is presently located in the Pacific Ocean between Baja California (BC) and Manzanillo, Mexico (MZ). Evidence of the migration of the Mendicino Triple Junction northward through the San Francisco Bay region is preserved as a series of volcanic centers that grow progressively younger toward the north. Volcanic rocks in the Hollister region are roughly 12 million years old whereas the volcanic rocks in the Sonoma-Clear Lake region north of San Francisco Bay range from only few million to as little as 10,000 years old. Both of these volcanic areas and older volcanic rocks in the region are offset by the modern regional fault system. (Image modified after original illustration by Irwin, 1990 and Stoffer, 2006.)

  • Here is a map that shows the shaking potential for earthquakes in CA. This comes from the state of California here.

  • Earthquake shaking hazards are calculated by projecting earthquake rates based on earthquake history and fault slip rates, the same data used for calculating earthquake probabilities. New fault parameters have been developed for these calculations and are included in the report of the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities. Calculations of earthquake shaking hazard for California are part of a cooperative project between USGS and CGS, and are part of the National Seismic Hazard Maps. CGS Map Sheet 48 (revised 2008) shows potential seismic shaking based on National Seismic Hazard Map calculations plus amplification of seismic shaking due to the near surface soils.

  • Here are three figures from Langenheim et al. (2013). The first one shows the geology of the region. The second map shows the magnetic anomaly data and the second map shows how they interpreted the magnetic anomaly data to reveal different tectonic domains in the Franciscan Formation.

  • Map showing location and geologic setting of the Franciscan Coastal Belt in the northern California Coast Ranges. Inset shows magnetic anomalies (in magenta) of Figure 2 in and near the Coastal Belt, mapped occurrences of basalt (black dots and areas), and associated fossil localities (numbered white X’s; listed in Table 1). Map units: fc—Franciscan False Cape terrane; KRt—Franciscan King Range terrane; Cob—Franciscan Coastal Belt, undivided; Yg—Franciscan Yager terrane; Cnb— Franciscan Central Belt; Eb—Franciscan Eastern Belt; um—ultramafi c rocks; MTJ— Mendocino triple junction; GVg—Great Valley Group; T—Tertiary cover; Q—alluvium, largely Quaternary. Stippled pattern near Fort Ross shows outcrop of Ohlson Ranch Formation. Magenta arrows labeled PAC and GOR show relative plate motion of Pacific and Gorda plates, respectively, relative to the North American plate (McCrory, 2000). Tiny box labeled MH—Marin Headlands (area of Fig. 8). Coastal Belt thrust is shown with thrust teeth. Geology was compiled and simplifi ed from Jennings (1977), Blake et al. (1992), Blake et al. (2002), Jayko et al. (1989), McLaughlin et al. (2000), U.S. Geological Survey and California Geological Survey (2006), and geologic mapping by R.J. McLaughlin northeast of Clear Lake and south of Willits. Southern part of the Coastal Belt thrust west and south of Willits is from (1) mapping by McLaughlin,
    interpretation of aeromagnetic anomalies, and 1:62,500 scale topography, and (2) that east of Point Arena is from photogeologic interpretation that resulted in a greater extent of mélange assigned to the Central Belt.


    Filtered magnetic map of the Coastal Belt. See Langenheim et al. (2011) for details of filtering that places anomalies over magnetic sources and enhances anomalies for which sources are exposed or near surface. Magenta lines—margins of the belt, with the San Andreas fault on the west and the Coastal Belt thrust and other faults on the east. Dashed dark green lines—depositional contacts. Red lines— boundaries between the terranes of the Coastal Belt: Coastal Belt, undivided (Cob), False Cape terrane (fc), King Range terrane (KRt), and Yager terrane (Yg). The Wheatfield Fork terrane (WFt) is too narrow to show at the scale of the figure, but its extent along the eastern boundary of the Coastal Belt is circled in dark blue. Thin dark blue dotted lines separate structural domains discussed in text and shown in figure 6. Blue line—profile location of model shown in Figure 5B.


    Structural domains and dips interpreted from filtered magnetic anomalies (Fig. 2). Layer dip from asymmetry of magnetic anomaly is shown. Dark blue lines separate domains discussed in text. Anomalies within area east of the Coastal Belt thrust may be caused by magnetic layers in the Coastal Belt beneath a thin sheet of Central Belt rocks in the hanging wall of the thrust. Anomalies colored green, blue, and lavender are discussed in text. WFt— Wheatfield Fork terrane. Dashed green line is outline of onshore Eel River basin.

  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. Many of the earthquakes people are familiar with in the Mendocino triple junction region are either compressional or strike slip. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:
  • Compressional:
  • Extensional:
  • This figure shows what a transform plate boundary fault is. Looking down from outer space, the crust on either side of the fault moves side-by-side. When one is standing on the ground, on one side of the fault, looking across the fault as it moves… If the crust on the other side of the fault moves to the right, the fault is a “right lateral” strike slip fault. The Mendocino and San Andreas faults are right-lateral (dextral) strike-slip faults. I believe this is from Pearson Higher Ed.

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).


    References:

  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Wentworht, C.M., and McLaughlin, R.J., 2012. Previously unrecognized regional structure of the Coastal Belt of the Franciscan Complex, northern California, revealed by magnetic data in Geosphere, v. 9, no. 6, doi:10.1130/GES0094
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • McCrory, P.A.,. Blair, J.L., Waldhauser, F., kand Oppenheimer, D.H., 2012. Juan de Fuca slab geometry and its relation to Wadati-Benioff zone seismicity in JGR, v. 117, B09306, doi:10.1029/2012JB009407.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp1515].

Earthquake Report: Mendocino fault! (northern California)

I was driving around Eureka today, running to the appliance center to get an appliance (heheh). I got a message from a long time held friend (who lives in Salinas, CA). They asked me if I was OK, given that there was an earthquake up here. I thought I had not felt it because I was driving around. However, after looking at the USGS website, I learned the earthquake happened earlier, while I was back working on my house. The main reason I did not feel it is because it was too far away.
Once I got home, after work, I noticed that lots of people were discussing how they were confused about the earthquake notifications from the USGS. Apparently, there were two M 5.X earthquakes in the USGS earthquake online system for a while. Then there was one. This is a common occurrence and I prepared an explanation for some people Here is what I wrote for these people on social media:

this happens regularly. earthquake notifications are automatic as epicenter locations are identified from incoming seismic waves in the seismic network. sometimes the named arrivals (eg. p wave, s wave, and the many other arrivals) are miss-correlated between stations. this miss-correlation then leads to earthquakes in the database that are not real.
seismologists are monitoring the process and review these data for quality, looking for mistakes, and refining magnitude estimates, moment tensor and focal mechanism solutions, location estimates, casualty estimages (PAGER alerts), and all the derivative data products (intensity, PGA, PGV, etc. maps and data).
sometimes these earthquakes are from data in the same location as the real earthquake (like today) and sometimes they are “picked” from seismic data from remote earthquakes.
some of these earthquakes are listed here:
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/errata.php

Today’s M 5.7 earthquake was along the western part of the Mendocino fault (MF), a right-lateral (dextral) transform plate boundary. This plate boundary connects the Gorda ridge and Juan de Fuca rise spreading centers with their counterparts in the Gulf of California, with the San Andreas strike-slip fault system. Transform plate boundaries are defined that they are strike-slip and that they connect spreading ridges. In this sense of the definition, the Mendocino fault and the San Andreas fault are part of the same system. Here is the USGS website for this earthquake.
See the figures from Rollins and Stein (2010) below. More on earthquakes in this region can be found in Earthquake Reports listed at the bottom of this page above the appendices.
The San Andreas fault is a right-lateral strike-slip transform plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates. The plate boundary is composed of faults that are parallel to sub-parallel to the SAF and extend from the west coast of CA to the Wasatch fault (WF) system in central Utah (the WF runs through Salt Lake City and is expressed by the mountain range on the east side of the basin that Salt Lake City is built within).
The three main faults in the region north of San Francisco are the SAF, the MF, and the Bartlett Springs fault (BSF). I also place a graphical depiction of the USGS moment tensor for this earthquake. The SAF, MF, and BSF are all right lateral strike-slip fault systems. There are no active faults mapped in the region of Sunday’s epicenter, but I interpret this earthquake to have right-lateral slip. Without more seismicity or mapped faults to suggest otherwise, this is a reasonable interpretation.
The Cascadia subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary where the Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates (JDFP and GP, respectively) subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates are formed at the Juan de Fuca Ridge and Gorda Rise spreading centers respectively. More about the CSZ can be found here.
There was a good sized (M 6.5) MF earthquake late last year on 2016.12.08. I present my poster for that earthquake below. Here is my report for that earthquake. Here is the updated report.
Below I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I use the USGS Quaternary fault and fold database for the faults.

  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (McCrory et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

This is a preliminary report and I hope to prepare some updates as I collect more information.

    I have placed several inset figures.

  • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) and regional tectonic plate boundary faults. This is modified from several sources (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004). I placed a blue star in the general location of today’s M 5.7 earthquake.
  • Below the CSZ map is an illustration modified from Plafker (1972). This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. Today’s earthquake did not occur along the CSZ, so did not produce crustal deformation like this. However, it is useful to know this when studying the CSZ.
  • In the lower left corner is a figure from Rollins and Stein (2010). In their paper they discuss how static coulomb stress changes from earthquakes may impart (or remove) stress from adjacent crust/faults. This map shows the major earthquakes that have occurred in this region, prior to their publication in 2010. I place a blue star in the general location of today’s earthquake.
  • Above the Rollins and Stein (2010) map are two illustrations showing the difference between a right-lateral and a left-lateral strike slip fault. This is from California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
  • To the right of the Rollins and Stein (2010) map, is a generalized illustration showing an interpretation of the results from these authors. They suggest that, for a variety of earthquake sources in this region, which types of faults have inhibited or promoted earthquake likelihood. The relevant part is C, which tests whether there is an increased or decreased likelihood (chance) of an earthquake on the left-lateral strike-slip faults in the Gorda plate. Based upon today’s M 5.7, there is a slight increase in the chance of a Gorda plate earthquake to the northwest of today’s M 5.7 earthquake. This is the distant side of the M 5.7 earthquake, so any potential GP earthquake would be further away.
    • In the upper right corner is a figure that many people in Humboldt and Del Norte counties might be interested in (the two most northwesterly counties in CA). These two panels both show the same general result (as relevant to this discussion), the increased or decreased chance of an earthquake on two types of faults (north of the dashed line, the chance on GP left-lateral faults; south of dashed line, the chance on the MF. The region of this figure is outlined in dashed white transparent box on the main poster. We can see that the CSZ is just to the east of this figure. People always want to know if there is an increased chance of a megathrust earthquake on the CSZ. This M 5.7 will not have a direct impact upon the CSZ. Over time, earthquakes like this actually bring the CSZ closer to an earthquake (they do not relieve stress, but increase it). But the deformation of the Gorda and Pacific plates is localized near the earthquake. So, it does not change the stress on the megathrust. But, hundreds of earthquakes like this, over time, do increase the stress on the megathrust.
    • The figure here helps us evaluate this concept for this M 5.7 earthquake. The 1994 earthquake, represented in this figure, caused an increase in stress along faults generally in the region of this figure (extending outwards more a little to the south, less more to the west, and very little more to the north and east. The take away is that the 1994 did not change the stress on faults very much in the region of the megathrust. Because today’s M 5.7 earthquake is even further to the west, there is not a possibility that this M 5.7 had any affect on the megathrust.


  • Here is the 2016.12.08 earthquake report poster from this report.

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).

  • Here is a map from Rollins and Stein, showing their interpretations of different historic earthquakes in the region. This was published in response to the January 2010 Gorda plate earthquake. The faults are from Chaytor et al. (2004). The 1980, 1992, 1994, 2005, and 2010 earthquakes are plotted and labeled. I did not mention the 2010 earthquake, but it most likely was just like 1980 and 2005, a left-lateral strike-slip earthquake on a northeast striking fault.

  • Tectonic configuration of the Gorda deformation zone and locations and source models for 1976–2010 M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes. Letters designate chronological order of earthquakes (Table 1 and Appendix A). Plate motion vectors relative to the Pacific Plate (gray arrows in main diagram) are from Wilson [1989], with Cande and Kent’s [1995] timescale correction.

  • Here is the Rollins and Stein (2010) figure that is in the report above. I include their figure caption as blockquote below.

  • Coulomb stress changes imparted by our models of (a) a bilateral rupture and (b) a unilateral eastward rupture for the 1994 Mw = 7.0 Mendocino Fault Zone earthquake to the epicenters of the 1995 Mw = 6.6 southern Gorda zone earthquake (N) and the 2000 Mw = 5.9 Mendocino Fault Zone earthquake (O). Calculation depth is 5 km.

  • Here is a large scale map of the 1994 earthquake swarm. The mainshock epicenter is a black star and epicenters are denoted as white circles.

  • Here is a plot of focal mechanisms from the Dengler et al. (1995) paper in California Geology.

  • In this map below, I label a number of other significant earthquakes in this Mendocino triple junction region. Another historic right-lateral earthquake on the Mendocino fault system was in 1994. There was a series of earthquakes possibly along the easternmost section of the Mendocino fault system in late January 2015, here is my post about that earthquake series.

  • The Gorda and Juan de Fuca plates subduct beneath the North America plate to form the Cascadia subduction zone fault system. In 1992 there was a swarm of earthquakes with the magnitude Mw 7.2 Mainshock on 4/25. Initially this earthquake was interpreted to have been on the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ). The moment tensor shows a compressional mechanism. However the two largest aftershocks on 4/26/1992 (Mw 6.5 and Mw 6.7), had strike-slip moment tensors. These two aftershocks align on what may be the eastern extension of the Mendocino fault.
  • There have been several series of intra-plate earthquakes in the Gorda plate. Two main shocks that I plot of this type of earthquake are the 1980 (Mw 7.2) and 2005 (Mw 7.2) earthquakes. I place orange lines approximately where the faults are that ruptured in 1980 and 2005. These are also plotted in the Rollins and Stein (2010) figure above. The Gorda plate is being deformed due to compression between the Pacific plate to the south and the Juan de Fuca plate to the north. Due to this north-south compression, the plate is deforming internally so that normal faults that formed at the spreading center (the Gorda Rise) are reactivated as left-lateral strike-slip faults. In 2014, there was another swarm of left-lateral earthquakes in the Gorda plate. I posted some material about the Gorda plate setting on this page.
  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. Many of the earthquakes people are familiar with in the Mendocino triple junction region are either compressional or strike slip. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This figure shows what a transform plate boundary fault is. Looking down from outer space, the crust on either side of the fault moves side-by-side. When one is standing on the ground, on one side of the fault, looking across the fault as it moves… If the crust on the other side of the fault moves to the right, the fault is a “right lateral” strike slip fault. The Mendocino and San Andreas faults are right-lateral (dextral) strike-slip faults. I believe this is from Pearson Higher Ed.

Update

  • Abbreviations
  • BSF – Bartlett Springs fault
  • CA – California
  • CSZ – Cascadia subduction zone
  • GP – Gorda plate
  • JDFP – Juan de Fuca plate
  • MF – Mendocino fault
  • MMI – Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale
  • SAF – San Andreas fault
  • USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
  • WF – Wasatch fault

    References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Dziak, R.P., and Fox, C.G., 2004. Active deformation of the Gorda plate: Constraining deformation models with new geophysical data: Geology v. 32, p. 353-356.
  • Dengler, L.A., Moley, K.M., McPherson, R.C., Pasyanos, M., Dewey, J.W., and Murray, M., 1995. The September 1, 1994 Mendocino Fault Earthquake, California Geology, Marc/April 1995, p. 43-53.
  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • McCrory, P.A.,. Blair, J.L., Waldhauser, F., kand Oppenheimer, D.H., 2012. Juan de Fuca slab geometry and its relation to Wadati-Benioff zone seismicity in JGR, v. 117, B09306, doi:10.1029/2012JB009407.
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • Nelson, A.R., Asquith, A.C., and Grant, W.C., 2004. Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Past 2000 Years at the Salmon River Estuary, Central Oregon Coast, USA: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 1276–1292
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1988/1434/].

Earthquake Report: 1992.04.25 M 7.1 Petrolia

The 25 April 1992 M 7.1 earthquake was a wake up call for many, like all large magnitude earthquakes are.
I have some updated posters as of April 2021 (see below).
Here is my personal story.
I was driving my girlfriend’s car (Jen Guevara) with her and some housemates up to attend a festival at Redwood Park in Arcata. She lived in the old blue house at the base of the bridge abutment on the southwest side of HWY 101 as it crosses Mad River. The house burned down a couple of years ago, but these memories remain. We were driving along St. Louis and about to turn east to cross the 101 towards LK Wood. The car moved left and right. I pulled over as I thought we might have just gotten a flat tire. I got out, inspected the wheels, and there was no flat. We returned to our journey. When we arrived at the park, everyone was talking about how the redwood trees were flopping around like wet spaghetti during the earthquake. I then looked back in my memory and realized that, at the lumber mill that I had parked by when I got the imaginary flat tire, there were tall stacks of milled lumber flopping around. I had dismissed it that they were blowing in the wind. Silly me.
Later that night, I was at a reggae concert at the Old Creamery Building in Arcata. At some point, the lights flickered off and on. I figured that someone had accidentally brushed up against the light switch on the wall. BUT, this was the first of two large aftershocks.
Even later that night, actually the following morning, I was laying in bed with Jen. The house typically shook when large semi trucks crossed the 101 bridge. However, this time, the shaking had a much longer duration. This was the second of the two major aftershocks. I finally recognized this earthquake as an earthquake and not something else. To my credit, I was dancing during the first major aftershock.

    Here is the USGS website for these three large earthquakes.

  • 1992-04-25 18:06:05 UTC 40.335°N 124.229°W 9.9 km depth M 7.2
  • 1992-04-26 07:41:40 UTC 40.433°N 124.566°W 18.8 km depth M 6.5
  • 1992-04-26 11:18:25 UTC 40.383°N 124.555°W 21.7 km depth M 6.6

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.

I plot the seismicity for a week beginning April 25, 1992, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend)..

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (McCrory et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) and regional tectonic plate boundary faults. This is modified from several sources (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004)
  • Below the CSZ map is an illustration modified from Plafker (1972). This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes.
  • In the upper left corner is a figure from Rollins and Stein (2010). In their paper they discuss how static coulomb stress changes from earthquakes may impart (or remove) stress from adjacent crust/faults. To the right of this map are two panels. The upper panel shows the location and orientation of the fault plane used by Rollins and Stein (2010) to model potential changes in coulomb stress following the 1992 M 7.2 earthquake. The Lower panel shows the results from this modeling.
  • In the lower right corner is the map from Stein et al. (1993). This map shows an estimate of coseismic vertical ground motion induced by the 1992 earthquake sequence.
  • In the upper right corner is a series of USGS shakemaps. These plot intensity using the MMI scale.
  • Below the shakemaps is the “Did You Feel It?” map and attenuation relation plot.


Below is my updated interpretive poster for this earthquake.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner is a small scale map that shows the tectonic plates and their boundaries, along with USGS NEIC seismicity from 1921-2021 for earthquakes M > 6.5
  • In the upper right corner is a series of 4 panels highlighting earthquake intensity for the 3 main events in this sequence.
    • The 3 panels on the right show the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) scale shaking intensity for the 7.2, 6.6, and 6.5 earthquakes. These are based on computer models that correlate MMI with distance from the earthquake.
    • The panel on the left is a larger scale map that shows the MMI contours for the 7.2 earthquake. I also plot the USGS “Did You Feel It?” results. These are data compiled from observations people made and reported to the USGS. Read more about the DYFI program here.
    • The plot in the bottom center-left shows both of these data: the USGS modeled intensities and the USGS DYFI intensities. Note how the intensity gets lesser with distance from the earthquake.
  • The lower right corner has two maps which are “Ground Failure” products from the USGS for this earthquake. Read more about the USGS ground failure products here. I explain these two products in greater detail below.
    • The map on the right shows the probability of (chance of) landslides to have been triggered by the M 7.2 earthquake shaking.
    • The map on the left shows the susceptibility for (chance for) liquefaction to have been generated by the M 7.2 earthquake shaking.
  • Above the Ground Failure maps is a larger scale view of the aftershocks from the Cape Mendocino Earthquake. Technically, many of these events are not aftershocks, but earthquakes on different faults than the M 7.2 source fault. These are earthquakes triggered by the stress changes following the 7.2 earthquake. The two second largest events (M 6.6 and 6.5) are triggered events on NW striking faults in the Gorda plate. More on these events in an upcoming paper. Stay tuned.


Shaking Intensity and Potential for Ground Failure

  • Below are a series of maps that show the shaking intensity and potential for landslides and liquefaction. These are all USGS data products.
  • There are many different ways in which a landslide can be triggered. The first order relations behind slope failure (landslides) is that the “resisting” forces that are preventing slope failure (e.g. the strength of the bedrock or soil) are overcome by the “driving” forces that are pushing this land downwards (e.g. gravity). The ratio of resisting forces to driving forces is called the Factor of Safety (FOS). We can write this ratio like this:

    FOS = Resisting Force / Driving Force

    When FOS > 1, the slope is stable and when FOS < 1, the slope fails and we get a landslide. The illustration below shows these relations. Note how the slope angle α can take part in this ratio (the steeper the slope, the greater impact of the mass of the slope can contribute to driving forces). The real world is more complicated than the simplified illustration below.


    Landslide ground shaking can change the Factor of Safety in several ways that might increase the driving force or decrease the resisting force. Keefer (1984) studied a global data set of earthquake triggered landslides and found that larger earthquakes trigger larger and more numerous landslides across a larger area than do smaller earthquakes. Earthquakes can cause landslides because the seismic waves can cause the driving force to increase (the earthquake motions can “push” the land downwards), leading to a landslide. In addition, ground shaking can change the strength of these earth materials (a form of resisting force) with a process called liquefaction.
    Sediment or soil strength is based upon the ability for sediment particles to push against each other without moving. This is a combination of friction and the forces exerted between these particles. This is loosely what we call the “angle of internal friction.” Liquefaction is a process by which pore pressure increases cause water to push out against the sediment particles so that they are no longer touching.
    An analogy that some may be familiar with relates to a visit to the beach. When one is walking on the wet sand near the shoreline, the sand may hold the weight of our body generally pretty well. However, if we stop and vibrate our feet back and forth, this causes pore pressure to increase and we sink into the sand as the sand liquefies. Or, at least our feet sink into the sand.
    Below is a diagram showing how an increase in pore pressure can push against the sediment particles so that they are not touching any more. This allows the particles to move around and this is why our feet sink in the sand in the analogy above. This is also what changes the strength of earth materials such that a landslide can be triggered.


    Below is a diagram based upon a publication designed to educate the public about landslides and the processes that trigger them (USGS, 2004). Additional background information about landslide types can be found in Highland et al. (2008). There was a variety of landslide types that can be observed surrounding the earthquake region. So, this illustration can help people when they observing the landscape response to the earthquake whether they are using aerial imagery, photos in newspaper or website articles, or videos on social media. Will you be able to locate a landslide scarp or the toe of a landslide? This figure shows a rotational landslide, one where the land rotates along a curvilinear failure surface.

  • Below is the liquefaction susceptibility and landslide probability map (Jessee et al., 2017; Zhu et al., 2017). Please head over to that report for more information about the USGS Ground Failure products (landslides and liquefaction). Basically, earthquakes shake the ground and this ground shaking can cause landslides. We can see that there is a high probability for landslides. This makes sense as the lower limit for earthquake triggered landslides is magnitude M 5.5 (from Keefer 1984).
  • I use the same color scheme that the USGS uses on their website. Note how the areas that are more likely to have experienced earthquake induced liquefaction are in the valleys. Learn more about how the USGS prepares these model results here.

The Cascadia subduction zone

  • Here is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone, modified from Nelson et al. (2006). The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. Sites where evidence of past earthquakes (paleoseismology) are denoted by white dots. Where there is also evidence for past CSZ tsunami, there are black dots. These paleoseismology sites are labeled (e.g. Humboldt Bay). Some submarine paleoseismology core sites are also shown as grey dots. The two main spreading ridges are not labeled, but the northern one is the Juan de Fuca ridge (where oceanic crust is formed for the Juan de Fuca plate) and the southern one is the Gorda rise (where the oceanic crust is formed for the Gorda plate).

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes.

  • This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. We also can see how a subduction zone generates a tsunami. Atwater et al., 2005.

  • Here is an animation produced by the folks at Cal Tech following the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake. I have several posts about that earthquake here and here. One may learn more about this animation, as well as download this animation here.

1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake and Tsunami

  • Following the earthquake, there was lots of work done by local geologists, along with help from those visiting from out of the area. One of the projects included the measurement and modeling of the ground deformation related to the earthquake. The measurements consistend of a first order survey of benchmarks, along with Global Positioning System measurements at GPS monuments. The results from these analyses were presented in a U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-383 (Stein et al., 1993). Below is a map that shows a modeled estimate of the surface deformation associated with this earthquake.

  • Here is a figure from Oppenheimer et al. (1993) that shows the shaking intensity from this earthquake sequence. Below is a colorized version.



  • Simplified tectonic map in the vicinity of the Cape Mendocino earthquake sequence. Stars, epicenters of three largest earthquakes; contours, Modified Mercalli intensities (values, Roman numerals) of main shock; open circles, strong motion instrument sites (adjacent numbers give peak horizontal accelerations in g). Abbreviations FT Fortuna; F Ferndale; RD, Rio Dell; S, Scotia; P, Petrolia; H, Honeydew; MF, Mendocino fault; CSZ, seaward edge of Cascadia subduction zone; and SAF, San Andreas fault.

  • This map shows an alternate model of earthquake ground deformation (Oppenheimer et al, 1993).

  • Observed and predicted coseismic displacements for the Cape Mendocino main shock (epicenter located at star).

  • This is a figure that shows the tsunami recorded by tide gages in California, Hawaii, and Oregon (Oppenheimer et al., 1993)

  • Here is a map from Rollins and Stein (2010), showing their interpretations of different historic earthquakes in the region. This was published in response to the Januray 2010 Gorda plate earthquake. The faults are from Chaytor et al. (2004).

  • Tectonic configuration of the Gorda deformation zone and locations and source models for 1976–2010 M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes. Letters designate chronological order of earthquakes (Table 1 and Appendix A). Plate motion vectors relative to the Pacific Plate (gray arrows in main diagram) are from Wilson [1989], with Cande and Kent’s [1995] timescale correction.

  • This figure shows the fault plane and aftershocks used in their analysis of the 1992 earthquake sequence.

  • Source models for earthquakes 25 April 1992, Mw = 6.9, open circles are from Waldhauser and Schaff ’s [2008] earthquake locations for 25 April 1992 (1806 UTC) to 26 April 1992 (0741 UTC)

  • This figure shows the change in coulomb stress imparted by the M 7.1 earthquake onto different faults: (a) the CSZ and (b) the faults that were triggered to generate the two main aftershocks.

  • (a) Coulomb stress changes imparted by the 1992 Mw = 6.9 Cape Mendocino earthquake (J) to the Cascadia subduction zone. Calculation depth is 8 km. Open circles are Waldhauser and Schaff [2008] earthquake locations for 25 April 1992 to 2 May 1992, 0–15 km depth. Seismicity data were cut off at 15 km depth to prevent interference from aftershocks of K and L. Cross section A‐A′ includes seismicity between 40.24°N and 40.36°N. Cross section B‐B′ includes seismicity between 40.36°N and 40.48°N. (b) Coulomb stress changes imparted by the 1992 Mw = 6.9 earthquake (J) to Mw = 6.5 and Mw = 6.6 shocks the next day (K and L). Stress change is resolved on the average of the orientations of K and L (strike 127°/dip 90°/rake 180°). Calculation depth is 21.5 km. (c) Calculated Coulomb stress changes imparted by M ≥ 5.9 shocks in 1983, 1987, and 1992 (C, E, and J) to the epicenters of K and L. The series of three colored numbers represent stress changes imparted by C, E, and J, respectively.

  • Here is a plot of the seismograms from the NCEDC.

Below is an updated interpretive poster for this earthquake sequence that focuses on the mechanisms.

  • I include the plot of tide gage data from Oppenheimer et al. (1993). These data are not in digital format, but are preserved in paper format. I hope to get some funding to head back to the east coast and scan the paper records to digitize them.
  • Note that the color format for the seismicity is based on depth. There are lots of events in the North America plate (see the green dots on the eastern end of the plot. There are also lots of Gorda plate and Mendocino fault events (the deeper events on the western side of the plot).
  • Look at the different types of earthquakes. What can you conclude about this sequence?


    Here is the USGS website for all the earthquakes in this region from 1917-2017 with M ≥ 6.5.

  • 1922.01.31 13:17 M 7.3
  • 1923.01.22 09:04 M 6.9
  • 1934-07-06 22:48 M 6.7
  • 1941-02-09 09:44 M 6.8
  • 1949-03-24 20:56 M 6.5
  • 1954-11-25 11:16 M 6.8
  • 1954-12-21 19:56 M 6.6
  • 1980-11-08 10:27 M 7.2
  • 1984-09-10 03:14 M 6.7
  • 1984-09-10 03:14 M 6.6
  • 1991-07-13 02:50 M 6.9
  • 1991-08-17 22:17 M 7.0
  • 1992-04-25 18:06 M 7.2
  • 1992-04-26 07:41 M 6.5
  • 1992-04-26 11:18 M 6.6
  • 1994-09-01 15:15 M 7.0
  • 1995-02-19 04:03 M 6.6
  • 2005-06-15 02:50 M 7.2
  • 2005-06-17 06:21 M 6.6
  • 2010-01-10 00:27 M 6.5
  • 2014-03-10 05:18 M 6.8
  • 2016-12-08 14:49 M 6.5
  • This is the map used in the animation below. Earthquake epicenters are plotted (some with USGS moment tensors) for this region from 1917-2017 with M ≥ 6.5. I labeled the plates and shaded their general location in different colors.
  • I include some inset maps.
    • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004).
    • In the upper left corner is a map from Rollins and Stein (2010). They plot epicenters and fault lines involved in earthquakes between 1976 and 2010.



  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. Many of the earthquakes people are familiar with in the Mendocino triple junction region are either compressional or strike slip. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:
  • Compressional:
  • Extensional:
  • Here is a primer that helps people learn how to interpret focal mechanisms and moment tensors. Moment tensors are calculated differently from focal mechanisms, but the interpretation of their graphical solution is similar. This is from the USGS.

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:

References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Goldfinger, C., Nelson, C.H., Morey, A., Johnson, J.E., Gutierrez-Pastor, J., Eriksson, A.T., Karabanov, E., Patton, J., Gràcia, E., Enkin, R., Dallimore, A., Dunhill, G., and Vallier, T., 2012 a. Turbidite Event History: Methods and Implications for Holocene Paleoseismicity of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, USGS Professional Paper # 1661F. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, 184 pp.
  • McCrory, P.A., 2000, Upper plate contraction north of the migrating Mendocino triple junction, northern California: Implications for partitioning of strain: Tectonics, v. 19, p. 11441160.
  • McCrory, P. A., Blair, J. L., Oppenheimer, D. H., and Walter, S. R., 2006, Depth to the Juan de Fuca slab beneath the Cascadia subduction margin; a 3-D model for sorting earthquakes U. S. Geological Survey
  • Nelson, A.R., Kelsey, H.M., Witter, R.C., 2006. Great earthquakes of variable magnitude at the Cascadia subduction zone. Quaternary Research 65, 354-365.
  • Oppenheimer, D., Beroza, G., Carver, G., Dengler, L., Eaton, J., Gee, L., Gonzalez, F., Jayko, A., Ki., W.H., Lisowski, M., Magee, M., Marshall, G., Murray, M., McPherson, R., Romanowicz, B., Satake, K., Simpson, R., Somerille, P., Stein, R., and Valentine, D., The Cape Mendocino, California, Earthquakes of April, 1992: Subduction at the Triple Junction in Science, v. 261, no. 5120, p. 433-438.
  • Patton, J. R., Goldfinger, C., Morey, A. E., Romsos, C., Black, B., Djadjadihardja, Y., and Udrekh, 2013. Seismoturbidite record as preserved at core sites at the Cascadia and Sumatra–Andaman subduction zones, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 833-867, doi:10.5194/nhess-13-833-2013, 2013.
  • Plafker, G., 1972. Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and Chilean earthquake of 1960: Implications for arc tectonics in Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 77, p. 901-925.
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stein, R.S., Marshall, G.A., Murray, M.H., Balazs, E., Carver, G.A., Dunklin, T.A>, McLaughlin, R.J., Cyr, K., and Jayko, A., 1993. Permanent Ground Movement Associate with the 1992 M=7 Cape Mendocino, California, Earthquake: Implications for Damage to Infrastructure and Hazards to navigation, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-383.
  • Wang, K., Wells, R., Mazzotti, S., Hyndman, R. D., and Sagiya, T., 2003, A revised dislocation model of interseismic deformation of the Cascadia subduction zone Journal of Geophysical Research, B, Solid Earth and Planets v. 108, no. 1.

Earthquake Report: 2016 Summary Cascadia

Here I summarize the seismicity for Cascadia in 2016. I limit this summary to earthquakes with magnitude greater than or equal to M 4.0. I reported on all but five of these earthquakes. I put this together a couple weeks ago, but wanted to wait to post until the new year (just in case that there was another earthquake to include).
I prepared a 2016 annual summary for Earth here.

    I include summaries of my earthquake reports in sorted into three categories. One may also search for earthquakes that may not have made it into these summary pages (use the search tool).

  • Magnitude
  • Region
  • Year

Earthquake Summary Poster (2016)

  • Here is the map where I show the epicenters as circles with colors designating the age. I also plot the USGS moment tensors for each earthquake, with arrows showing the sense of motion for each earthquake.
  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend in the lower left corner of the map. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • In some cases, I am able to interpret the sense of motion for strike-slip earthquakes. In other cases, I do not know enough to be able to make this interpretation (so I plot both solutions).

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) and regional tectonic plate boundary faults. This is modified from several sources (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004)
  • Below the CSZ map is an illustration modified from Plafker (1972). This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. Today’s earthquake did not occur along the CSZ, so did not produce crustal deformation like this. However, it is useful to know this when studying the CSZ.
  • To the lower right of the Cascadia map and cross section is a map showing the latest version of the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF). Let it be known that this is not really a forecast, and this name was poorly chosen. People cannot forecast earthquakes. However, it is still useful. The faults are colored vs. their likelihood of rupturing. More can be found about UCERF here. Note that the San Andreas fault, and her two sister faults (Maacama and Bartlett Springs), are orange-red.
  • To the upper right of the Cascadia map and cross section is a map showing the shaking intensities based upon the USGS Shakemap model. Earthquake Scenarios describe the expected ground motions and effects of specific hypothetical large earthquakes. The color scale is the same as found on many of my #EarthquakeReport interpretive posters, the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI). The latest version of this map is here.
  • In the upper right corner I include generalized fault map of northern California from Wallace (1990).
  • To the left of the Wallace (1990) map is a figure that shows the evolution of the San Andreas fault system since 30 million years ago (Ma). This is a figure from the USGS here.
  • In the lower right corner I include the Earthquake Shaking Potential map from the state of California. This is a probabilistic seismic hazard map, basically a map that shows the likelihood that there will be shaking of a given amount over a period of time. More can be found from the California Geological Survey here. I place a yellow star in the approximate location of today’s earthquake.



    Cascadia subduction zone: General Overview

  • Cascadia’s 315th Anniversary 2015.01.26
  • Cascadia’s 316th Anniversary 2016.01.26
  • Earthquake Information about the CSZ 2015.10.08

The big player this year was an M 6.5 along the Mendocino fault on 2016.12.08. Here I present an inventory of 8 earthquakes with M ≥ 5.0. There are a few additional earthquakes with smaller magnitudes that are of particular interest.

Please visit the #EarthquakeReport pages for more information about the figures that I include in the Earthquake Report interpretive posters below.


    References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Dziak, R.P., and Fox, C.G., 2004. Active deformation of the Gorda plate: Constraining deformation models with new geophysical data: Geology v. 32, p. 353-356.
  • Dengler, L.A., Moley, K.M., McPherson, R.C., Pasyanos, M., Dewey, J.W., and Murray, M., 1995. The September 1, 1994 Mendocino Fault Earthquake, California Geology, Marc/April 1995, p. 43-53.
  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • Nelson, A.R., Asquith, A.C., and Grant, W.C., 2004. Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Past 2000 Years at the Salmon River Estuary, Central Oregon Coast, USA: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 1276–1292
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1988/1434/].

Earthquake Report: Mendocino fault!

I was awake and just logging into my laptop, still in bed, when I first felt some movement. The movement was slight and not impulsive, so I thought it was a small earthquake. Then the shaking reappeared. This is when I started counting. one one-thousand, two one-thousand…. twenty one-thousand. The S-Wave lasted about 20 seconds. I thought back to the 2010 earthquake that lasted about that long and it was a M 6.5 earthquake. SO, I immediately thought this was probably a mid M 6 earthquake. However, the shaking was subdued. So, it could be a larger earthquake further away. I logged into social media and people were already contacting me. A friend felt it shake for 2 minutes in southern Oregon (so I thought it might be a large earthquake on the Blanco fracture zone, especially since there were a couple up there recently).
UPDATE: Here is my Earthquake Report Update #1
I checked the USGS website here and saw that it was closer to me (Manila, CA), along the Mendocino fault. At first it was a M 6.8, but the location and magnitude changed to an M 6.5.
This earthquake appears to have occurred along the Mendocino fault, a right-lateral (dextral) transform plate boundary. This plate boundary connects the Gorda ridge and Juan de Fuca rise spreading centers with their counterparts in the Gulf of California, with the San Andreas strike-slip fault system. Transform plate boundaries are defined that they are strike-slip and that they connect spreading ridges. In this sense of the definition, the Mendocino fault and the San Andreas fault are part of the same system. This earthquake appears to have occurred in a region of the Mendocino fault that ruptured in 1994. See the figures from Rollins and Stein below. More on earthquakes in this region can be found in Earthquake Reports listed at the bottom of this page above the appendices.
The San Andreas fault is a right-lateral strike-slip transform plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates. The plate boundary is composed of faults that are parallel to sub-parallel to the SAF and extend from the west coast of CA to the Wasatch fault (WF) system in central Utah (the WF runs through Salt Lake City and is expressed by the mountain range on the east side of the basin that Salt Lake City is built within).
The three main faults in the region north of San Francisco are the SAF, the MF, and the Bartlett Springs fault (BSF). I also place a graphical depiction of the USGS moment tensor for this earthquake. The SAF, MF, and BSF are all right lateral strike-slip fault systems. There are no active faults mapped in the region of Sunday’s epicenter, but I interpret this earthquake to have right-lateral slip. Without more seismicity or mapped faults to suggest otherwise, this is a reasonable interpretation.
The Cascadia subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary where the Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates are formed at the Juan de Fuca Ridge and Gorda Rise spreading centers respectively. More about the CSZ can be found here.
Below I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I use the USGS Quaternary fault and fold database for the faults.
I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
This is a preliminary report and I hope to prepare some updates as I collect more information.

    I have placed several inset figures.

  • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) and regional tectonic plate boundary faults. This is modified from several sources (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004)
  • Below the CSZ map is an illustration modified from Plafker (1972). This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. Today’s earthquake did not occur along the CSZ, so did not produce crustal deformation like this. However, it is useful to know this when studying the CSZ.
  • To the left of the CSZ map is the USGS Did You Feel It felt report map. This map is based upon reports submitted by real people. Note how the felt reports extend beyond the modeled estimates of MMI shaking as represented by the MMI contours on the map.
  • In the lower left corner is a figure from Dengler et al. (1995) that shows focal mechanisms from earthquakes in this region, along the Mendocino fault. Today’s earthquake is near the 1994 earthquake.
  • To the right of the Dengler et al. (1995) figure, I present a photo I took of the seismograph observed in Van Matre Hall on the Humboldt State University campus. This seismograph is operated by the HSU Department of Geology.
  • In the upper left corner is a figure from Rollins and Stein (2010). In their paper they discuss how static coulomb stress changes from earthquakes may impart (or remove) stress from adjacent crust/faults.


  • Here is a map from Rollins and Stein, showing their interpretations of different historic earthquakes in the region. This was published in response to the January 2010 Gorda plate earthquake. The faults are from Chaytor et al. (2004). The 1980, 1992, 1994, 2005, and 2010 earthquakes are plotted and labeled. I did not mention the 2010 earthquake, but it most likely was just like 1980 and 2005, a left-lateral strike-slip earthquake on a northeast striking fault.

  • Here is a large scale map of the 1994 earthquake swarm. The mainshock epicenter is a black star and epicenters are denoted as white circles.

  • Here is a plot of focal mechanisms from the Dengler et al. (1995) paper in California Geology.

  • In this map below, I label a number of other significant earthquakes in this Mendocino triple junction region. Another historic right-lateral earthquake on the Mendocino fault system was in 1994. There was a series of earthquakes possibly along the easternmost section of the Mendocino fault system in late January 2015, here is my post about that earthquake series.


    References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Dziak, R.P., and Fox, C.G., 2004. Active deformation of the Gorda plate: Constraining deformation models with new geophysical data: Geology v. 32, p. 353-356.
  • Dengler, L.A., Moley, K.M., McPherson, R.C., Pasyanos, M., Dewey, J.W., and Murray, M., 1995. The September 1, 1994 Mendocino Fault Earthquake, California Geology, Marc/April 1995, p. 43-53.
  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • Nelson, A.R., Asquith, A.C., and Grant, W.C., 2004. Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Past 2000 Years at the Salmon River Estuary, Central Oregon Coast, USA: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 1276–1292
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1988/1434/].