Tsunami Report: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai Volcanic Eruption & Tsunami

I will be filling this in over the next few days and wanted to start collating social media materials for this event.
There was a large volcanic eruption in the Tonga region. This eruption was observable from satellites and has generated a modest but observable tsunami from Australia to the United States.
This event is still unfolding and it will take months until we have a deeper understanding of the causes for the tsunami. We know it is related to the explosive volcanic eruption from Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, about 55 kms (35 miles) northwest of the largest island of the Kingdom of Tonga, Tongatapu.
I will continue to fill in details. I am currently busy trying to manage our tsunami event response and am learning lots in the process. However, this delays my time available here.


Below there are many tweets etc. and one may feel like they are scrolling forever. These tweets are loosely organized into several sections.

  1. Background Material
  2. Tsunami Notifications
  3. Tsunami Education
  4. Tsunami Observations
  5. Tsunami Modeling
  6. Volcano Eruption Observations
  7. Fascinating Observations

Background Material


Tsunami Notifications

Tsunami | Volcano Education

Tsunami Observations

USA (CA)


From here a resort on Tongatapu.

Don’t do what the videographer here did. This was unsafe and they are incredibly lucky.

Some videos on Youtube:

Santa Cruz






Crescent City

Oregon

Pacific

Tsunami Modeling

Volcano Eruption | Atmospheric Observations

Fascinating | Sad Observations


Gemini Cloudcam Gravity Waves from Earth to Sky Calculus on Vimeo.

Tsunami Webcam Network

Below is an interactive map that displays a network of publicly accessible webcams that could be used to observe tsunami waves.

Earthquake Report: M 8.2 near Perryville, Alaska

A few days ago, I was passed out on my couch (sleep apnea) and for some reason I awoke and noticed that I had gotten a CSEM notification of a large earthquake offshore of Alaska. Well, after looking into that, I sent my boss, Rick, a text message: “8.2.”
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us6000f02w/executive
Rick Wilson runs the tsunami program at the California Geological Survey (CGS) and works with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to use official forecasts of tsunami size from the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) to alert coastal emergency managers about the level of potential evacuation that they may want to act upon.
More about this process can be found here. Take a look at the CGS Special Report 236 to learn about the Tsunami Playbooks and the “FASTER” approach for tsunami evacuation guidance. Evacuation is something that is done at the local level, so CGS and Cal OES can only provide recommendations.
Needless to say, we were both at the ready to respond. Rick has hourly phone calls with the NTWC and follows up with phone calls and emails to specific interested parties (e.g. the emergency managers). We each went into tsunami response mode. I manage the Tsunami Event Response Team, which may be activated to collect observations of tsunami inundation or ocean currents.
I started looking at tide gage and DART Buoy data to see how large the tsunami was in the epicentral region. The M 8.2 was in the region of the 1938 M 8.2 earthquake which generated a transoceanic tsunami. I also looked into the literature about the 1938 tsunami, to see what size that tsunami was. The 1938 tsunami had a decimeter scale wave height (peak to trough) for gages in Alaska and in California (Johnson and Satake, 1994). Jeff Freymueller et al. (2021) had also recently worked on the 1938 earthquake source area and tsunami modeling as well.
The nearest tide gage for this 2021 event is at Sand Point, but the nearest gage in 1938 was in Unalaska. So, in order to get a modest comparison between 1938 and 2021, I felt a need to wait for the Unalaska data to trickle in. This may give us some idea whether the 1938 tsunami recorded in Crescent City and San Francisco might be a decent analogue. Of course, we need to get the official forecast from the NTWC prior to sending out any information. But, that process can take hours (over 3 hours in this case). So, we need to get our minds wrangled around the possibilities in the absence of more information.
Earthquake and Tectonic Background:
The plate boundary in the north Pacific is a convergent (pushing together) plate boundary where the Pacific plate on the south ‘subducts’ northwards beneath the North America plate on the north. The Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone forms a deep sea trench which can be seen in maps of the region. The subduction zone fault dips into the Earth, getting deeper to the north.
Between earthquakes (the interseismic period), the megathrust fault is seismogenically coupled (i.e. ‘locked’) just like velcro has the ability to hold together one’s wallet. The plates are always moving towards each other. Because the fault is locked, the crust surrounding the fault bends elastically to accommodate this convergent motion.
As the crust bends and flexes, it stores energy (i.e. tectonic strain). The part of the fault closest to the seafloor (the southernmost part of this subduction zone fault) gets pulled downwards, while the part of the crust further to the north flexes upwards.
The materials along the earthquake fault have properties that resist motion (like the velcro). But, as the plates converge and increase the amount of energy stored, the forces on the fault may exceed the strength of the fault. At this time, the fault slips, causing an earthquake.
The part of the fault that was being pulled downwards gets pushed upwards during the earthquake (the coseismic period), while the crust that was being flexed upwards between earthquakes thus subsides downwards during the earthquake.
The Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone has a history of subduction zone earthquakes and tsunami, plus there exists a prehistory of earthquakes and tsunami in some parts of this plate boundary. Geologists are often asked to determine the potential hazard of future earthquakes and tsunami and their answers are based on what we know from the past (using both historic and prehistoric data).
The 2021 M 8.2 earthquake happened in the same location as a 1938 M 8.2 earthquake, just to the east of a sequence of earthquakes from last year (22 July and 19 October 2020).
Tsunami:
When the earthquake fault slips, and the upper plate deforms, the vertical motion of the plate can elevate (or lower) the overlying ocean water. After the water changes position, it seeks to return to sea-level (an equipotential surface). If elevated, the water drops downwards and then oscillates up and down. This is the process that generates waves that radiate from the area with seafloor deformed by the earthquake.

    Things that make a tsunami larger are [generally]:

  1. More vertical land motion (possibly from larger slip on the fault, e.g. from a larger magnitude earthquake)
  2. Deeper water (deeper water = more volume of water moving = more energy to create larger tsunami waves)

So let’s take a look at the things that may have affected the size of the tsunami from this 2021 M 8.2 earthquake.
First of all, based on the earthquake slip models (estimates of how the earthquake slipped, in meters, and how that slip varied along the fault) suggest that a majority of the largest slip happened beneath the continental shelf. The water depth on the shelf is similar to many shelfs worldwide, shallower than about 200 meters. How does this affect the size of the tsunami?
Well, I guess that is the main point, the ground deformation that generated the tsunami was beneath shallow water.
These slip models are based on a variety of data and most of the data are seismic data. Some tsunami are generated by slow slip (not generating seismic waves) on the shallow part of the fault. These are called tsunami earthquakes.
Because tsunami earthquakes may be generated by slip in this way, slip models using seismic data cannot resolve the location of the slip on the fault that created these tsunami. However, the tsunami from this 2021 M 8.2 earthquake were small. Therefore the updip part of the fault probably did not contribute significantly to the tsunamigenic ground deformation.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

  • I plot the seismicity from the past 3 months, with diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I also include earthquake epicenters from 1921-2021 with magnitudes M ≥ 7.5.
  • 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 outlines of the historic subduction zone earthquakes as prepared by Peter Haeussler from the USGS in Anchorage. He appears in the video about the 1964 earthquake below.
  • Some of the tide gage and DART buoy locations are labeled.
  • Note how there are still aftershocks from the 2018 M 7.9 earthquake sequence.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below. I present 3 posters, each with slightly different information.

  • This is the first poster I prepared.
  • In the upper center is a low-angle oblique view of the plate boundary. Note the oceanic Pacific plate is subducting beneath the continental North America plate. As the plate goes down, the water embedded in the rocks and sediment are released into the overlying mantle wedge. This water causes the mantle to melt, which rises, erupts as lava and forms the volcanic chain we call the Aleutian Islands. I place a green star in the “epicentral” location of the 2021 M 8.2 earthquake.
  • In the upper left corner is part of a figure from Witter et al. (2019) that shows sections of the megathrust fault relative to how much the fault is thought to be locked. This is called the coupling ratio. For a fault that is fully coupled (or locked), the ratio is 1.0. For a fault that is slipping about 50% and accumulating about 50% of the plate motion rate, the coupling ratio is 0.5. Many subduction zones have low coupling ratios of 0.2-0.6. The region of the fault west of the 1938 and 2021 M 8.2 earthquakes is called the Shumagin Gap, thought to be possibly aseismic (with a coupling ratio closer to 0). But the 2020 sequence of M 7.8 and 7.9 earthquakes filled much of this gap.
  • In the upper right corner is a plot showing the earthquake shaking intensity using the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI). This is a USGS model based on observations of intensity from thousands of earthquakes. Read more about MMI here.
  • In the center right is a plot showing the aftershocks within a couple hours of the mainshock
  • In the lower right corner is the initial record of the tsunami at the Sand Point tide gage (see map for gage location).
  • I labeled the USGS slab 2.0 slab contours (Hayes et al., 2018). These depth contours represent the depth of the megathrust fault at these locations. The M 8.2 hypocentral depth is 32.2 km and the slab2 depth is about 35 km. Nice!
  • Here is the map with 3 month’s seismicity plotted. There are 3 posters. The first one is something I put together around 2 hours after I awoke on the couch (abt 2am my time). I prepared the 2nd poster an hour later, which includes some information about tsunami prehistory. I prepared the 3rd poster late Sunday evening, about 3 days after the earthquake.

  • This is the second map I prepared and some figures are the same as in the first poster.
  • Below the low-angle oblique map is a slip model from the USGS. The color represents the amount of slip on the fault. Note that the maximum slip is close to the epicenter. This is not always the case, as for the 1938 event, it appears that the maximum slip was not where the mainshock epicenter was.
  • In the upper left corner is a map from Nelson et al. (2015). Those authors studied the prehistoric tsunami records at Chrikof Island, an island about 200 km to the east of the 2021 M 8.2 epicenter. The lower map shows GPS derived plate motion rates.
  • In the lower right corner is also from Nelson et al. (2015). On this plot, the vertical axis represents time with “today” at the top and over 5000 years ago at the bottom. The horizontal axis is space, west to east from left to right. Each colored symbol represents the time of a prehistoric tsunami. The vertical size of these symbols represents the uncertainty (or “error”) associated with those chronologic data. We can take the number of earthquakes or tsunami over a period of time to estimate how frequently those process happen over time.
  • To the left is a more updated version of the Sand Point tide gage, showing a wave height (peak to trough) of about 45 cm. We cannot compare this to the 1938 tsunami as there was not a tide gage at Sand Point in 1938

  • I prepared a 3rd poster, but updated it to this 4th poster.
  • In the Intensity Data area, I added USGS “Did You Feel It?” data, which come from reports from real people. Learn more about dyfi here. The model data are the colored lines labeled in white and the dyfi data are colored polygons labeled in yellow.
  • In the aftershocks plot, I added epicenters from the several days after the mainshock. I also added a transparent overlay of the USGS finite fault model (the slip model). Compare the overlap, or non-overlap, of the slip region and the aftershocks. Why do you think that they are not completely overlapping?
  • In the lower right section are tide gage records from gages in the area included in the poster. I plot the tidal forecast (dark blue), the tide gage observed water surface elevation (medium blue), and the difference between these data (in light blue) which is a record of the tsunami (and other waves, like wind waves). I made a rough approximation estimate of the maximum wave height and labeled this in yellow. The San Point tide gage has a mx wave height of about 0.8 m!
  • I also plot the data from the DART buoy 46403, which is the closest DART buoy to the mainshock epicenter. The DART buoy network is used to help calibrate tsunami forecast models during tsunami events. These are basically pressure transducers on the seafloor that measure changes in pressure caused by waves and atmospheric processes. The data plotted here are not tsunami data, but seismic wave data. One reason we know that this is not a tsunami is that the waveform initiated about 3 minutes after the earthquake. A tsunami would take longer to get to the buoy.
  • In the upper left corner is a pair of maps that show USGS earthquake induced ground failure models. The map on the right shows what areas have likelihood of having landslides triggered by the 2021 M 8.2 earthquake. The panel on the right shows the possibility that areas might experience liquefaction induced by the earthquake.
  • I added aftershocks associated with the 2020 M 7.8/7.5 sequence that filled the Shumagin Gap (green circles) and outlined the aftershock region for both 2020 and 2021 sequences. The 2021 sequence is not yet over. The largest aftershock so far has only been M 6.1. The 1938 M 8.2 event had a M~7 event 5 days after the mainshock. Stay tuned?

Tectonic Overview

Below is an educational video from the USGS that presents material about subduction zones and the 1964 earthquake and tsunami in particular.
Youtube Source IRIS
mp4 file for downloading.

    Credits:

  • Animation & graphics by Jenda Johnson, geologist
  • Directed by Robert F. Butler, University of Portland
  • U.S. Geological Survey consultants: Robert C. Witter, Alaska Science Center Peter J. Haeussler, Alaska Science Center
  • Narrated by Roger Groom, Mount Tabor Middle School

This is a map from Haeussler et al. (2014). The region in red shows the area that subsided and the area in blue shows the region that uplifted during the earthquake. These regions were originally measured in the field by George Plafker and published in several documents, including this USGS Professional Paper (Plafker, 1969).


Here is a cross section showing the differences of vertical deformation between the coseismic (during the earthquake) and interseismic (between earthquakes).


This figure, from Atwater et al. (2005) shows the earthquake deformation cycle and includes the aspect that the uplift deformation of the seafloor can cause a tsunami.


Here is a figure recently published in the 5th International Conference of IGCP 588 by the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Dept. of Natural Resources, State of Alaska (State of Alaska, 2015). This is derived from a figure published originally by Plafker (1969). There is a cross section included that shows how the slip was distributed along upper plate faults (e.g. the Patton Bay and Middleton Island faults).


Here is a graphic showing the sediment-stratigraphic evidence of earthquakes in Cascadia, but the analogy works for Alaska also. Atwater et al., 2005. There are 3 panels on the left, showing times of (1) prior to earthquake, (2) several years following the earthquake, and (3) centuries after the earthquake. Before the earthquake, the ground is sufficiently above sea level that trees can grow without fear of being inundated with salt water. During the earthquake, the ground subsides (lowers) so that the area is now inundated during high tides. The salt water kills the trees and other plants. Tidal sediment (like mud) starts to be deposited above the pre-earthquake ground surface. This sediment has organisms within it that reflect the tidal environment. Eventually, the sediment builds up and the crust deforms interseismically until the ground surface is again above sea level. Now plants that can survive in this environment start growing again. There are stumps and tree snags that were rooted in the pre-earthquake soil that can be used to estimate the age of the earthquake using radiocarbon age determinations. The tree snags form “ghost forests.


This is a photo that I took along the Seward HWY 1, that runs east of Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm. I attended the 2014 Seismological Society of America Meeting that was located in Anchorage to commemorate the anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake. This is a ghost forest of trees that perished as a result of coseismic subsidence during the earthquake. Copyright Jason R. Patton (2014). This region subsided coseismically during the 1964 earthquake. Here are some photos from the paleoseismology field trip. (Please contact me for a higher resolution version of this image: quakejay at gmail.com)


This is another video about the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and how we learned about what happened.

  • Here is a map that shows historic earthquake slip regions as pink polygons (Peter Haeussler, USGS). Dr. Haeussler also plotted the magnetic anomalies (grey regions), the arc volcanoes (black diamonds), and the plate motion vectors (mm/yr, NAP vs PP).

  • Here is the figure from Sykes et al. (1980) that shows the space time relations for historic earthquakes in relation to the map.

  • Above: Rupture zones of earthquakes of magnitude M > 7.4 from 1925-1971 as delineated by their aftershocks along plate boundary in Aleutians, southern Alaska and offshore British Columbia [after Sykes, 1971]. Contours in fathoms. Various symbols denote individual aftershock sequences as follows: crosses, 1949, 1957 and 1964; squares, 1938, 1958 and 1965; open triangles, 1946; solid triangles, 1948; solid circles, 1929, 1972. Larger symbols denote more precise locations. C = Chirikof Island. Below: Space-time diagram showing lengths of rupture zones, magnitudes [Richter, 1958; Kanamori, 1977 b; Kondorskay and Shebalin, 1977; Kanamori and Abe, 1979; Perez and Jacob, 1980] and locations of mainshocks for known events of M > 7.4 from 1784 to 1980. Dashes denote uncertainties in size of rupture zones. Magnitudes pertain to surface wave scale, M unless otherwise indicated. M is ultra-long period magnitude of Kanamori 1977 b; Mt is tsunami magnitude of Abe[ 1979]. Large shocks 1929 and 1965 that involve normal faulting in trench and were not located along plate interface are omitted. Absence of shocks before 1898 along several portions of plate boundary reflects lack of an historic record of earthquakes for those areas.

  • Here is a great illustration that shows how forearc sliver faults form due to oblique convergence at a subduction zone (Lange et al., 2008). Strain is partitioned into fault normal faults (the subduction zone) and fault parallel faults (the forearc sliver faults, which are strike-slip). This figure is for southern Chile, but is applicable globally.

  • Proposed tectonic model for southern Chile. Partitioning of the oblique convergence vector between the Nazca plate and South American plate results in a dextral strike-slip fault zone in the magmatic arc and a northward moving forearc sliver. Modified after Lavenu and Cembrano (1999).

In 2016, there was an earthquake along the Alaska Peninsula, a M 7.1 on 2016.01.24. Here is my earthquake report for this earthquake. Here is a map for the earthquakes of magnitude greater than or equal to M 7.0 between 1900 and today. This is the USGS query that I used to make this map. One may locate the USGS web pages for all the earthquakes on this map by following that link.

Tsunami Data

I plot tide gage data for gages in the north and northeast Pacific Ocean. These data are from NOAA Tides and Currents, though are also available via the eu tide gage website here.

    Each plot includes three datasets:

  1. The tidal forecasts are shown as a dark blue line.
  2. The actual observed water surface elevation is plotted in medium blue.
  3. By removing (subtracting) the tide forecast from the observed data, we get the signal from wind waves, tsunami, and atmospheric phenomena. This residual is plotted in light blue.

The scale for the tsunami wave height is on the right side of the chart.
Note the all tsunami wave height plots are the same vertical scale, except for Sand Point.
I measured the largest wave heights for each site, displayed in yellow.
Alaska














Here are the data from the DART buoy nearest the M 8.2. People often mistake these data for tsunami data, but this is generated by seismic waves.
One way to test one’s hypothesis about whether these buoy data are seismic waves or tsunami waves, one simply need to take a look at the time that the wave begins to be recorded by the DART buoy.
Seismic waves travel through water at about 1.5 kms per second. While tsunami wave velocity (based on the shallow water wave equation) for depths ranging from 200-4000 meters is between ~0.02 to 0.2 kms per second, much slower than seismic waves.

Surface Deformation

Below are surface deformation data generated by the USGS based on their finite fault model. The three panels show surface deformation in the north, east, and vertical directions.
North, East, and Up are positive (blue) while South, West, and Down are negative (red).
Note the upper panel and how the Pacific plate is moving to the north and the North America is moving south. Does this make sense?
The middle panel is interesting too, but skip to the lower panel, vertical. The accretionary prism (forming the continental slope), directly above the aftershocks and mainshock, rises up during the earthquake. The upper North America plate landward of the slip patch subsides. Does this make sense?
Earlier in this report we took a look at the geologic evidence for megathrust subduction zone earthquakes, evidence that records this “coseismic” subsidence.

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.
  • 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

  • Johnson and Satake (1994) studied tsunami waveforms from the 10 November 1938 Alaska M 8.2 earthquake. Their analysis was designed to estimate the source for the tsunami. Below are some figures from their paper, with figure captions beneath each figure.
  • This first plot shows the tsunami records from tide gages. This is the plot I used to consider the potential impact to the coast from the 2021 M 8.2 tsunami.

  • Digitized marigrams from 1938 Alaskan earthquake recorded in Crescent City, San Diego, and San Francisco. The tidal componenht asn ot beenr emoved.S tartt ime listedf or each record is the time in minutes from the origin time of the earthquaketo the startt ime of the digitizedr ecord.

  • Here is a map that shows the fault model that they used, as well as the amount of slip that they used for each fault element.

  • Location of subfaults used in inversion of tsunami waveforms. Graph shows slip distribution in meters.

  • This is a figure comparing their model results (synthetic = dashed) compared to the tide gage records (solid lines).

  • Observed and synthetic waveforms from inversion for four subfaults. Start time of each record is different. The arrows indicate the parts of the waveforms used for the inversion.

  • Freymueller et al. (2021) also studied the 1938 M 8.2 event, seeking to resolve the slip on the fault using tsunami modeling.
  • Below are figures with their captions in blockquote.
  • Here are some maps showing 2 of the slip distrubutions that they used for their modeling.

  • Example slip distributions for two of the slip models, shallow eastern and shallow far eastern. For each model the slip is the product of a function f(x) representing the along-strike variation and g(y) representing the downdip variation, and then scaled to a constant magnitude MW 8.25. The functions f(x) and g(y) are based on relations in Freund and Barnett [1976]. For the central and western models, the rupture area is the same as for the eastern model, but the area of higher slip is shifted to the west. For the mid-depth and deep models, the main area of high slip is shifted downdip.

  • Here are some maps showing vertical seafloor displacements for some of their tsunami scenarios.

  • Vertical seafloor displacements caused by representative slip scenarios. On the left side, the slip is concentrated in the east and the deep, mid-depth and shallow slip distribution scenarios are shown. On the right, the Western, Central and Far Eastern slip distribution scenarios are shown assuming the shallow rupture. Displacements are in meters. Red contours show depth to the plate interface from 0 to 80 km with a 10 km increment.

  • Here are plots that show some results of their modeling. The tide gage data are plotted in black and their simulated waves are plotted with red and blue lines.

  • Tide gauge data and model predictions for the eastern and far eastern source models.

    Here is an animation from one of the Ferymueller et al. (2021) models for the 1938 M 8.2 tsunami.

  • Nelson et al. (2015) presented their evidence for prehistoric tsunami on Chirikof Island, an island in the forearc in the eastern part of the 1938 earthquake slip patch.
  • They found evidence for many tsunami over a timespan from before 5000 years ago.
  • Below are some figures from their paper, with figure captions in blockquote.
  • This figure shows the tectonic setting and the area of their field study.

  • A) Location of Chirikof Island within the plate tectonic setting of the Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone. Rupture areas for great twentieth century earthquakes on the megathrust are in pink. (B) Velocity field of the Alaska Peninsula and the eastern Aleutian Islands observed by global positioning system (GPS) (Fournier and Freymueller, 2007). Colors show inferred rupture areas for earthquakes in 1788 (green) and 1938 (orange). Both A and B are modified from Witter et al. (2014). The section of the megathrust between Kodiak Island and the Shumagin Islands has been referred to as the Semidi segment (e.g., Shennan et al., 2014b). (C) Physiography of Chirikof Island (Google Earth image, 2012) showing the location of our study area at Southwest Anchorage, a prominent moraine, a fault scarp (facing southeast) that probably records the 1880 earthquake, the New Ranch valley reconnaissance core site, and UNAVCO GPS station AC13 (http:// pbo .unavco .org /station /overview /AC13). In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Chirikof Island was known to native Alutiiq and Russians as Ukamuk Island.

  • Here is a plot that shows the timing for the prehistoric tsunami inferred by these authors. The vertical axis is the time scale, with “today” at the top. Each colored pattern represents the age range for a tsunami deposit.
  • These data are plotted left to right, west to east, so we can compare tsunami records at different locations along the margin. These comparisons are important so that we can test different hypotheses about how subduciton faults may slip over time. In the 2021 case, the slip area was close to the 1938 earthquake. But, did has this always occured here?

  • Age probability distributions for probable (red) and possible (orange) tsunami deposits at Southwest Anchorage (labels as in Fig. 11) compared with age distributions for possible tsunami deposits at Sitkinak Island (Briggs et al., 2014a) and with age estimates for great earthquakes and tsunamis on Kodiak Island (from studies referenced on this figure;
    Fig. 1). Dotted horizontal lines show our correlation of evidence for some younger earthquakes and tsunamis. Times of great earthquakes inferred from episodes of village abandonment determined from archaeological stratigraphy in the eastern Alaska-Aleutian megathrust region are also shown (Hutchinson and Crowell, 2007).

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.


Earthquake Report: Tōhoku-oki Earthquake Ten Years Later

This year we look back and remember what happened ten years ago in Japan and across the entire Pacific Basin.
There are numerous web experiences focused on this type of reflection. Here is a short list, some of which I have been involved in.

Here are all the pages for this earthquake and tsunami:

I have several reports from previous years that have reviews of the earthquake and tsunami.

I focus mostly on new material I prepared for the following report.

Updated Interpretive Poster

  • I plot the seismicity from the year after the M 9.1, as well as large events from the past century, with diameter representing magnitude (see legend).
  • 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.

  • In the upper left corner is a small scale plate tectonic map showing the plate boundary faults with the magnetic anomalies overlain in transparency. There is an inset low angle oblique illustrative map showing how these plates interact in the subsurface (Lin et al., 2016).
  • In the lower right corner is a map that shows a comparison between the USGS modeled earthquake intensity and the USGS Did You Feel It? observations. These data are also included in a web map lower down in this update.
  • To the left of the intensity map are two tide gage plots that show a tsunami record. The upper plot is from Crescent City, California. The lower plot is from Naha, a location southwest of the earthquake, labeled on tectonic map. These and other tide gage records are viewable in the tide gage web map below.
  • In the upper right corner are two maps displaying the results from ground failure models from the USGS. The map on the left shows the potential for landslides triggered by the M 9.1 earthquake. The map on the right shows the chance that an area may have experienced liquefaction. These are included in a web map below.
  • Here is the map with a year’s and century’s seismicity plotted.

Seismicity

Web Map

Use this map to see the magnitudes of different earthquakes experienced in Japan. The map shows earthquake epicenters for large-magnitude historic events of the past century. It also includes epicenters for all aftershocks and triggered earthquakes for a year after the M 9.1 earthquake, and an outline of the aftershocks, which illustrates the area of the fault that slipped during the M 9.1 earthquake.

  • If you want to see this map in a larger window, click here.

Earthquake Intensity

Earthquake intensity is a measure of how strongly earthquake shaking is felt by people and objects. The further away from the epicenter, the lower the earthquake intensity. Seismologists use computer models to estimate what the intensity will be from an earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey uses its “Did You Feel It?” (DYFI) system to collect observations about how strongly people in different places felt an earthquake.

  • Here is a figure that shows a more comparison between the modeled intensity and the reported intensity. Both data use the same color scale, the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI). More about this can be found here. The colors and contours on the map are results from the USGS modeled intensity. The DYFI data are plotted as colored dots (color = MMI, diameter = number of reports).
  • The 3 panels, from left to right, show the USGS Shakemap (the model estimate), the DYFI reports, and an overlay comparing both of these data.

Web Map

Use this map to see the level of intensity people felt in different parts of Japan. The map displays the USGS intensity model for the M 9.1 earthquake as transparent colors. The map also shows, as colored circles, the “Did You Feel It?” report results from people who experienced shaking from this earthquake.

  • If you want to see this map in a larger window, click here.

Tsunami

Tsunami can be caused by a variety of processes, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and meteorological phenomena. Earthquakes, eruptions, and landslides cause tsunami when these processes displace water in some way. We may typically associate tsunami with subduction zone earthquakes because these earthquakes are the type that generate vertical land motion along the sea floor.

  • Here is a great illustration of how a subduction zone earthquake can generate a tsunami (Atwater et al., 2005).



We think that the earthquake slipped at least 50 meters (165 feet) during several minutes. This is the largest coseismic measurement of any subduction zone earthquake (so far).
When the fault slipped, it caused the seafloor to deform and move. This motion also displaced the overlying water column.
As the water column is elevated, it gains potential energy. As this uplifted water expends this energy by oscillating up and down, it radiates energy in the form of tsunami waves.
Tsunami were observed across the entire Pacific Basin, causing extensive damage and casualties in Japan, but also in other places too. There was about $100 million damage to coastal infrastructure in California alone.
This is an animated model of the Great East Japan tsunami of ten years ago. The warmer the colors, the larger the wave. The first surges reached the closest Japan coasts in about 25 minutes. The first surges reached Crescent City in 9.5 hours. (modified text from Dr. Lori Dengler)
This is the same map used as an overlay in the web map below.

    Here is the tide gage record from Crescent City, California, USA.
    Time is represented by the horizontal axis and elevation is represented on the vertical axis. The darker blue line in this image represents NOAA’s tidal forecast. The data recorded by the tide gage are represented by the light blue colored lines. Wave height is the distance measured between the wave crest and trough. Wave amplitude is the level of water above sea level.
    Some of these data came from the IOC sea level monitoring website.


Web Map

Use this map to see tsunami wave data as recorded by tide gages across the entire Pacific Basin. Click on a white triangle and there is a link to open the tide gage data as a graphic.
There is an overlay of color that represents the size of the tsunami as it travelled across the ocean. Learn more about these data here.

  • If you want to see this map in a larger window, click here.

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.

    Use this map to see the magnitudes of different earthquakes experienced in Japan. The map shows earthquake epicenters for large-magnitude historic events of the past century. It also includes epicenters for all aftershocks and triggered earthquakes for a year after the M 9.1 earthquake, and an outline of the aftershocks, which illustrates the area of the fault that slipped during the M9.1 earthquake.

Web Map

  • If you want to see this map in a larger window, click here.

    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

  • Ammon et al., 2011. A rupture model of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of the Tohoku Earthquake in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 693-696.
  • Fujitsu et al., 2011
  • Gusman et al., 2012. Source model of the great 2011 Tohoku earthquake estimated from tsunami waveforms and crustal deformation data in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 341-344, p. 234-242.
  • Hirose et al., 2011. Outline of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake (Mw 9.0) Seismicity: foreshocks, mainshock, aftershocks, and induced activity in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 655-658
  • Iinuma et al., 2012. Coseismic slip distribution of the 2011 off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku Earthquake (M9.0) refined by means of seafloor geodetic data in Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 117, DOI: 10.1029/2012JB009186
  • Ikuta et al., 2012. A small persistent locked area associated with the 2011 Mw9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake, deduced from GPS data in Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 117, DOI: 10.1029/2012JB009335
  • Ito et al., 2011. Slip distribution of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake inferred from geodetic data in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 627-630
  • Koper et al., 2011. Frequency-dependent rupture process of the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku Earthquake: Comparison of short-period P wave back projection images and broadband seismic rupture models in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 599-602.
  • Kosuga et al, 2011. Seismic activity around the northern neighbor of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake with emphasis on a potentially large aftershock in the area in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 719-723.
  • Lay et al., 2011 a. The 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake: Comparison of deep-water tsunami signals with finite-fault rupture model predictions in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 797-801.
  • Lay et al., 2011 b. Possible large near-trench slip during the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 687-692.
  • Lay et al., 2011 c. Outer trench-slope faulting and the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 713-718.
  • Lee et al., 2011. Evidence of large scale repeating slip during the 2011 Tohoku‐Oki earthquake in Geophysical Research Letters, v. 38, DOI: 10.1029/2011GL049580.
  • Newman et al., 2011. Hidden depths in Nature, v. 474, p. 441-443.
  • Nishimura et al., 2011. The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake and its aftershocks observed by GEONET in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 631-636.
  • Orzawa et al., 2011. Coseismic and postseismic slip of the 2011 magnitude-9 Tohoku-Oki earthquake in Nature, v. 000, p. 1-4.
  • Satake et al., 2013. Time and Space Distribution of Coseismic Slip of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake as Inferred from Tsunami Waveform Data in Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, v. 1032, p. 1473-1492.
  • Shao et al., 2011. Focal mechanism and slip history of the 2011 Mw 9.1 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake, constrained with teleseismic body and surface waves in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 559-564.
  • Simons et al., 2011. The 2011 Magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake: Mosaicking the Megathrust from Seconds to Centuries in Science, v. 332, p. 1421-1425.
  • Terakawa et al., 2013. Changes in seismic activity following the 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake: Effects of pore fluid pressure in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 365, p. 17-24.
  • Toda et al., 2011. Using the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake to test the Coulomb stress triggering hypothesis and to calculate faults brought closer to failure in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 725-730.
  • Uchida and Matsuzawa, 2011. Coupling coefficient, hierarchical structure, and earthquake cycle for the source area of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake inferred from small repeating earthquake data in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 675-679.
  • Wang et al., 2013. The 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku Earthquake: Comparison of GPS and Strong-Motion Data in Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, v. 103, p. 1336-1347.
  • Yagi and Fukahata, 2011. Rupture process of the 2011 Tohoku‐oki earthquake and absolute elastic strain release in Geophysical Research Letters, v. 38, DOI: 10.1029/2011GL048701
  • Yamazaki et al., 2011. Modeling near‐field tsunami observations to improve finite‐fault slip models for the 11 March 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Geophysical Research Letter,s v. 38, DOI: 10.1029/2011GL049130
  • Yomogida et al., 2011. Along-dip segmentation of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake and comparison with other megathrust earthquakes in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 697-701.
  • Yue and Lay, 2013. Source Rupture Models for the Mw 9.0 2011 Tohoku Earthquake from Joint Inversions of High-Rate Geodetic and Seismic Data in Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, v. 103, p. 1242-1255.

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.

Earthquake Report (and Tsunami) Oaxaca, Mexico

Well, it has been a busy couple of weeks.

  • On 18 June, here was a M 7.4 earthquake in the Pacific plate along the Kermadec trench north of New Zealand which generated a small tsunami, even though it was a strike-slip earthquake (hopefully I can get to write that up, people are often surprised by tsunami generated by strike-slip earthquakes, but they are not that uncommon).
  • Then, on 19 June, there was a M 4.6 event as part of the Monte Cristo Earthquake Sequence. I put together a poster, but no report. See more on this sequence here. My coworker is developing an earthquake Quick Reporting program to provide earthquake information to the state geologist (Steven Bohlen), the director of the Department of Conservation (David Shabazian), and the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency (Wade Crowfoot). Cindy has been doing some of this in various roles for many years, but we are formalizing the process. I have been supporting Cindy by preparing maps. Even though this event was in Nevada, it satisfied the [draft] minimum criteria to prepare a Quick Report.
  • Then, on 23 June (Monday my time), there was a M 4.6 south of Lone Pine, CA. This happened late in the day, but Cindy prepared a Quick Report, along with my map and other information from the Strong Motion Instrument Program (seismometers in CA) run by Hamid Haddadi.
  • Then, on 23 June (Tuesday my time), right before work started, there was an earthquake in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Tsunami Unit at CGS was having our meeting and we all made observations and interpreted the earthquake and tsunami in real time. This is what I am writing about here.
  • Today, on 24 June (Wednesday my time), the CGS was having an all staff meeting. During the meeting, there was a M 5.8 earthquake near where the M 4.6 happened, near Lone Pine and Keeler. I will write about that earthquake next.

https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us6000ah9t/executive
The west coast coastline of southern Mexico, Central America, and South America is formed by a convergent plate boundary where oceanic tectonic plates dive eastwards beneath the continents. The fault formed at this plate boundary is called a subduction zone and the dynamics of subduction zones form deep sea trenches. I spend a few paragraphs discussing the different faults that form at different plate boundaries here.
Offshore of southern Mexico the Middle America trench shows us the location of the subduction zone megathrust fault. This fault system has a long history of damaging earthquakes, including some events that affect areas hundreds of kilometers from the source earthquake (e.g. the 1985 magnitude M 8 Mexico City earthquake).
In the past few years, evidences this megathrust is active continue to present themselves. There is a list of some earthquake reports at the bottom of this page.
The M 7.4 Oaxaca, Mexico Earthquake occurred along the megathrust fault interface (an “interplate” earthquake) based on our knowledge of the location of the fault, our calculation of the earthquake location, and the earthquake mechanisms prepared by seismologists (i.e. focal mechanisms or moment tensors).
The earthquake generated seismic waves that travelled around the world, including some that caused strong shaking in Mexico City. Mexico City was built where the Aztec Civilization had once constructed a great city. This city was built next to a lake where the Aztec constructed floating gardens. Eventually, these gardens filled the lake and the lake filled with sediment (I am simplifying what happened over a long time).
So, Mexico City is built in a sedimentary basin. Sedimentary basins can amplify shaking from seismic waves. These basins can also focus seismic waves and these waves can resonate within the basin, causing further amplification. This is why there was so much damage in Mexico City from the 1985 subduction zone earthquake.
The same thing happened a couple years ago for a recent earthquake there.
Well, when subduction zone earthquakes happen, the crust around the fault can flex like the elastic on one’s waist band. As the crust moves, if that crust is beneath the water, this crust motion moves the water causing a tsunami.
There are a number of organizations that monitor the Earth for earthquakes that may cause tsunami. These organizations alert officials in regions where these tsunami may inundate so that residents and visitors to the coast can take action (e.g. head to high ground). These programs save lives.
This M 7.4 earthquake generated a tsunami that was recorded along the coastline, but not at all tide gage stations. The Salina Cruz station has a great record of this tsunami and is located >80 km from the epicenter. The Acapulco station also recorded a tsunami, but those data were not uploaded to the IOC website (they are working this out now). It appeared that the Acapulco data were being streamed in real time, but I noticed that they were the same data as posted for the Salina Cruz station.
Here I plot the water surface elevations observed at the Salina Cruz tide gage. I mark the earthquake event time and the tsunami arrival time, then calculate the tsunami travel time.
I noticed that there is a down-first wave prior to the tsunami. This was observed at both stations (Acapulco and Salina Cruz). Dr. Costas Synolakis (USC) informed me that this is a well known phenomena called a “Leading Depression N-wave.” I mark the location of the Salna Cruz gage on the interpretive poster below.
The Wave Height of the tsunami is the vertical distance measured between the peak and the trough. These data show a Maximum Wave Height of 1.4 meters.


The strong ground shaking from an earthquake can also cause landslides and liquefaction. I discuss these further down in this report and include maps in the poster.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

  • I plot the seismicity from the past 3 months, with diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1920-2020 with magnitudes M ≥ 7.0.
  • 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. In the map below I include the magnetic anomaly data, also explained on this web 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 is a global scale map showing the major plate boundary faults and arrows show relative plate motions for these fault systems. The spreading ridge (orange arrows) between the Pacific and Cocos plates interacts with a flipping magnetic pole to form these magnetic anomalies. Because of this, they form parallel to the spreading ridge. Note how the anomalies are parallel to the East Pacific Rise spreading center (not labelled on this map, but look at figures lower in this report).
  • In the lower right corner is a map showing the earthquake intensity using the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI) as modeled by the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN). I also include observations from the USGS “Did You Feel It?” observations (these are from reports from the public).
  • To the left of this map is a plot showing how shaking intensity lowers with distance from the earthquake. The models that were used to produce the Earthquake Intensity map to the right are the same model results represented by the orange and green lines. However, on this plot, there are also observations from real people! The USGS Did You Feel It? questionnaire lets people report their observations from the earthquake and these data are plotted here. We can then compare the model with the observations.
  • In the upper and center right are maps that shows the liquefaction susceptibility and landslide probability models from the USGS. These are models and not based on direct observation, however, they could be used to help direct field teams to search for this type of effect.
  • To the left of these slope failure maps is a map and cross section from Benz et al. (2011). The circles represent earthquake locations and the diameter represents earthquake magnitude. The cross section B-B’ location in shown on this inset map and the main map as blue lines.
  • To the right of the main legend is the tide gage record from Salina Cruz.
  • Here is the map with 3 month’s seismicity plotted.


Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is tectonic map from Franco et al. (2012).

  • Tectonic setting of the Caribbean Plate. Grey rectangle shows study area of Fig. 2. Faults are mostly from Feuillet et al. (2002). PMF, Polochic–Motagua faults; EF, Enriquillo Fault; TD, Trinidad Fault; GB, Guatemala Basin. Topography and bathymetry are from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (Farr&Kobrick 2000) and Smith & Sandwell (1997), respectively. Plate velocities relative to Caribbean Plate are from Nuvel1 (DeMets et al. 1990) for Cocos Plate, DeMets et al. (2000) for North America Plate and Weber et al. (2001) for South America Plate.

  • These figures are from the USGS publication (Benz et al., 2011) that presents an educational poster about the historic seismicity and seismic hazard along the Middle America Trench.
  • First is a map showing earthquake depth as color (green depth > red). Seismicity cross section B-B’ is shown on the map. Today’s M=6.6 quake is nearest this section.



  • Here is a map from Benz et al. (2011) that shows the seismic hazard for this region.

  • Here are some figures from Manea et al. (2013). First are the map and low angle oblique view of the Cocos plate.

  • A. Geodynamic and tectonic setting alongMiddle America Subduction Zone. JB: Jalisco Block; Ch. Rift—Chapala rift; Co. rift—Colima rift; EGG—El Gordo Graben; EPR: East Pacific Rise; MCVA: Modern Chiapanecan Volcanic Arc; PMFS: Polochic–Motagua Fault System; CR—Cocos Ridge. Themain Quaternary volcanic centers of the TransMexican Volcanic Belt (TMVB) and the Central American Volcanic Arc (CAVA) are shown as blue and red dots, respectively. B. 3-D view of the Pacific, Rivera and Cocos plates’ bathymetrywith geometry of the subducted slab and contours of the depth to theWadati–Benioff zone (every 20 km). Grey arrows are vectors of the present plate convergence along theMAT. The red layer beneath the subducting plate represents the sub-slab asthenosphere.

  • Here is the figure that shows how the upper and lower plate structures interplay.

  • Kinematic model (mantle reference frame) of the subducting Cocos slab along the MAT in the vicinity of Cocos–Caribbe–North America triple junction since Early Miocene. The evolution of Caribbean–North America tectonic contact is based on the model of Witt et al. (2012). The blue strips represent markers on the Cocos plate. Note how trench roll forward is associated with steep slab in Central America, whereas trench roll back is associated with flat slab in Mexico.

  • Here is a map showing the spreading ridge features, along with the plate boundary faults (Mann, 2007). This is similar to the inset map in the interpretive poster.

  • Marine magnetic anomalies and fracture zones that constrain tectonic reconstructions such as those shown in Figure 4 (ages of anomalies are keyed to colors as explained in the legend; all anomalies shown are from University of Texas Institute for Geophysics PLATES [2000] database): (1) Boxed area in solid blue line is area of anomaly and fracture zone picks by Leroy et al. (2000) and Rosencrantz (1994); (2) boxed area in dashed purple line shows anomalies and fracture zones of Barckhausen et al. (2001) for the Cocos plate; (3) boxed area in dashed green line shows anomalies and fracture zones from Wilson and Hey (1995); and (4) boxed area in red shows anomalies and fracture zones from Wilson (1996). Onland outcrops in green are either the obducted Cretaceous Caribbean large igneous province, including the Siuna belt, or obducted ophiolites unrelated to the large igneous province (Motagua ophiolites). The magnetic anomalies and fracture zones record the Cenozoic relative motions of all divergent plate pairs infl uencing the Central American subduction zone (Caribbean, Nazca, Cocos, North America, and South America). When incorporated into a plate model, these anomalies and fracture zones provide important constraints on the age and thickness of subducted crust, incidence angle of subduction, and rate of subduction for the Central American region. MCSC—Mid-Cayman Spreading Center.

  • Here are 2 different figures from Mann (2007). First we see a map that shows the structures in the Cocos plate. Note the 3 profile locations labeled 1, 2, and 3. These coincide with the profiles in the lower panel.

  • Present setting of Central America showing plates, Cocos crust produced at East Pacifi c Rise (EPR), and Cocos-Nazca spreading center (CNS), triple-junction trace (heavy dotted line), volcanoes (open triangles), Middle America Trench (MAT), and rates of relative plate motion (DeMets et al., 2000; DeMets, 2001). East Pacifi c Rise half spreading rates from Wilson (1996) and Barckhausen et al. (2001). Lines 1, 2, and 3 are locations of topographic and tomographic profi les in Figure 6.

  • Here are 2 different views of the slabs in the region. These were modeled using seismic tomography (like a CT scan, but using seismic waves instead of X-Rays). The upper maps show the slabs in map-view at 3 different depths. The lower panels are cross sections 1, 2, and 3. Today’s M=6.6 earthquake happened between sections 1 & 2.

  • (A) Tomographic slices of the P-wave velocity of the mantle at depths of 100, 300, and 500 km beneath Central America. (B) Upper panels show cross sections of topography and bathymetry. Lower panels: tomographic profi les showing Cocos slab detached below northern Central America, upper Cocos slab continuous with subducted plate at Middle America Trench (MAT), and slab gap between 200 and 500 km. Shading indicates anomalies in seismic wave speed as a ±0.8% deviation from average mantle velocities. Darker shading indicates colder, subducted slab material of Cocos plate. Circles are earthquake hypocenters. Grid sizes on profi les correspond to quantity of ray-path data within that cell of model; smaller boxes indicate regions of increased data density. CT—Cayman trough; SL—sea level (modifi ed from Rogers et al., 2002).

  • Below is a video that explains seismic tomography from IRIS.
  • Here is the McCann et al. (1979) summary figure, showing the earthquake history of the region.

  • Rupture zones (ellipses) and epicenters (triangles and circles) of large shallow earthquakes (after KELLEHER et al., 1973) and bathymetry (CHASE et al., 1970) along the Middle America arc. Note that six gaps which have earthquake histories have not ruptured for 40 years or more. In contrast, the gap near the intersection of the Tehuantepec ridge has no known history of large shocks. Contours are in fathoms.

  • This is a more updated figure from Franco et al. (2005) showing the seismic gap.
  • Here is a map from Franco et al. (2015) that shows the rupture patches for historic earthquakes in this region.

  • The study area encompasses Guerrero and Oaxaca states of Mexico. Shaded ellipse-like areas annotated with the years are rupture areas of the most recent major thrust earthquakes (M≥6.5) in the Mexican subduction zone. Triangles show locations of permanent GPS stations. Small hexagons indicate campaign GPS sites. Arrows are the Cocos-North America convergence vectors from NUVEL-1A model (DeMets et al., 1994). Double head arrow shows the extent of the Guerrero seismic gap. Solid and dashed curves annotated with negative numbers show the depth in km down to the surface of subducting Cocos plate (modified from Pardo and Su´arez, 1995, using the plate interface configuration model for the Central Oaxaca from this study, the model for Guerrero from Kostoglodov et al. (1996), and the last seismological estimates in Chiapas by Bravo et al. (2004). MAT, Middle America trench.

  • Here are some figures that show how the subduction zone varies across the Tehuantepec Ridge. More about this in my initial report, as well as in my reports for the M 8.1 earthquake.
  • This is a figure showing the location of the Tehuantepec Ridge (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Tectonic framework of the Cocos plate convergent margin. Top- General view. Yellow arrows indicate direction and speed (in cm/yr) of plate convergence, calculated from the Euler poles given by DeMets et al. (2010) for CocoeNoam (first three arrows, from left to right), and CocoeCarb (last four arrows). Length of arrow is proportional to speed. Red arrow shows location of the 96 longitude. Box indicates location of lower panel. Bottom- Location of features and places mentioned in text. Triangles indicate volcanoes of the Central American Volcanic Arc (CAVA) with known Holocene eruption (Siebert and Simkin, 2002).

  • Here is another figure, showing seismicity for this region (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Seismicity along the convergent margin. Top: Map view. Blue circles are shallow (z < 60 km) hypocenters; orange, intermediate-depth (60 < z < 100 km); yellow, deep (z > 100 km). Next three panels: Earthquakes as a function of longitude and magnitude for shallow (blue dots), intermediate (orange), and deep (yellow) hypocenters. Numbers indicate number of events on each convergent margin, with average magnitude in parenthesis. Gray line in this and subsequent figures mark the 96 deg longitude.

  • This shows the location of the cross sections. The cross sections show how the CP changes dip along strike (from north to south) (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Location of hypocentral cross-sections. Hypocentral depths are keyed as in previous figures.

  • Here are the cross sections showing the seismicity associated with the downgoing CP (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Hypocentral cross-sections. Depths are color-coded as in previous figures. Dashed lines indicate the 60-km and 100-km depths. Tick marks are at 100-km intervals, as shown on the sections. There is no vertical exaggeration and Earth’s curvature is taken into account. Number of sections refers to location on Fig. 3.

  • This figure shows thrust and normal earthquakes for three ranges of depth (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Earthquake fault-plane solutions from CMT data. a. Shallow (z < 60 km), thrust-faulting mechanisms. b. Intermediate-depth (60 < z < 100 km) thrust-faulting events. c. Deep (z > 100 km), thrust-faulting earthquakes. d. to f. Normal-faulting events, in same layout as for thrust-faulting events.

  • Here is an educational animation from IRIS that helps us learn about how different earth materials can lead to different amounts of amplification of seismic waves. Recall that Mexico City is underlain by lake sediments with varying amounts of water (groundwater) in the sediments.
  • Here is an educational video from IRIS that helps us learn about resonant frequency and how buildings can be susceptible to ground motions with particular periodicity, relative to the building size.

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 an excellent educational video from IRIS and a variety of organizations. The video helps us learn about how earthquake intensity gets smaller with distance from an earthquake. The concept of liquefaction is reviewed and we learn how different types of bedrock and underlying earth materials can affect the severity of ground shaking in a given location. The intensity map above is based on a model that relates intensity with distance to the earthquake, but does not incorporate changes in material properties as the video below mentions is an important factor that can increase intensity in places.

If we look at the map at the top of this report, we might imagine that because the areas close to the fault shake more strongly, there may be more landslides in those areas. This is probably true at first order, but the variation in material properties and water content also control where landslides might occur.
There are landslide slope stability and liquefaction susceptibility models based on empirical data from past earthquakes. The USGS has recently incorporated these types of analyses into their earthquake event pages. More about these USGS models can be found on this page.

    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

  • Franco, A., C. Lasserre H. Lyon-Caen V. Kostoglodov E. Molina M. Guzman-Speziale D. Monterosso V. Robles C. Figueroa W. Amaya E. Barrier L. Chiquin S. Moran O. Flores J. Romero J. A. Santiago M. Manea V. C. Manea, 2012. Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador in Geophysical Journal International., v. 189, no. 3, p. 1223-1236. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05390.x
  • Franco, S.I., Kostoglodov, V., Larson, K.M., Manea, V.C>, Manea, M., and Santiago, J.A., 2005. Propagation of the 2001–2002 silent earthquake and interplate coupling in the Oaxaca subduction zone, Mexico in Earth Planets Space, v. 57., p. 973-985.
  • Garcia-Casco, A., Projenza, J.A., Iturralde-Vinent, M.A., 2011. Subduction Zones of the Caribbean: the sedimentary, magmatic, metamorphic and ore-deposit records UNESCO/iugs igcp Project 546 Subduction Zones of the Caribbean in Geologica Acta, v. 9, no., 3-4, p. 217-224
  • Benz, H.M., Dart, R.L., Villaseñor, Antonio, Hayes, G.P., Tarr, A.C., Furlong, K.P., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 a. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Mexico and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-F, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Franco, A., Lasserre, C., Lyon-Caen, H., Kostoglodov, V., Molina, E., Guzman-Speziale, M., Monterosso, D., Robles, V., Figueroa, C., Amaya, W., Barrier, E., Chiquin, L., Moran, S., Flores, O., Romero, J., Santiago, J.A., Manea, M., Manea, V.C., 2012. Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador in Geophysical Journal International., v. 189, no. 3, p. 1223-1236 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05390.x
  • Manea, M., and Manea, V.C., 2014. On the origin of El Chichón volcano and subduction of Tehuantepec Ridge: A geodynamical perspective in JGVR, v. 175, p. 459-471.
  • Mann, P., 2007. Overview of the tectonic history of northern Central America, in Mann, P., ed., Geologic and tectonic development of the Caribbean plate boundary in northern Central America: Geological Society of America Special Paper 428, p. 1–19, doi: 10.1130/2007.2428(01). For
  • McCann, W.R., Nishenko S.P., Sykes, L.R., and Krause, J., 1979. Seismic Gaps and Plate Tectonics” Seismic Potential for Major Boundaries in Pageoph, v. 117

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.


Earthquake Report: Gorda Rise

It was a busy week (usual, right?). The previous week I was working on getting a house remodel done so someone could move in (they have been sleeping on couches for 6 months, so want to get them in asap). This week I spent lots of time putting final touches on a USGS National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program external grant proposal together, proposing to conduct a paleoseismic investigation for a fault I discovered in late 2018 (see AGU poster here). So, I am catching up on my earthquake reporting for this earthquake offshore northern California.
On 18 May 2020 there was a magnitude M 5.5 extensional earthquake located near the Gorda Rise, an oceanic spreading ridge where oceanic crust is formed to create (love using the word create in science) the Gorda and Pacific plates.
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us70009jgy/executive
There are three types of plate boundaries and three types of earthquake faults (this is not a coincidence because plate boundaries are generally in the form of earthquake faults).

  1. Some plates move side-by-side to form transform plate boundaries (in the form of strike-slip faults, like the San Andreas fault).
  2. Some plates move towards each other to form convergent plate boundaries (in the form of subduction zone megathrust faults (like the Cascadia subduction zone), or collision zones(like the fault system that forms the uplift that created the Himalayas).
  3. Some plates move away from each other to form divergent plate boundaries (in the form of oceanic spreading ridges, or spreading centers, like the Mid Atlantic Ridge or the Gorda Rise; in these locations “normal” faults are formed).

More about different types of faults can be found here.
The northeast Pacific (aka Pacific Northwest as viewed by land lubbers) is dominated by the plate boundary formed between the Pacific (PP) and North America plates (NAP). In much of California, this plate boundary is realized in the form of the San Andreas fault (SAF), where the PP moves north relative to the NAP. Both plates are moving to the northwest, but the PP is moving faster, so it appears that the NAP is moving south. This southerly motion is relative not absolute. I present a background of the SAF in my review of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake here.
Near Cape Mendocino, in Humboldt County, California, the plate boundary gets more complicated and involves all three types of fault systems.
It appears that the San Andreas fault terminates in the King Range, causing some of the highest tectonic uplift rates in North America. There are sibling faults to the east of the San Andreas that continue further north (e.g. the Maacama fault turns into the Garberville fault and the Bartlett Springs fault (eventually) turns into the Bald Mountain/Big Lagoon fault. So, it looks like these San Andreas related faults extend offshore, possibly to at least the Oregon border. Geodetic evidence supports this, as first published by Williams et al. (2002).
The San Andreas ends near the beginning of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ), formed where the Gorda/Juan de Fuca/Explorer plates dive eastwards beneath the North America plate. More about the CSZ can be found here, where I describe the basis of our knowledge about prehistoric earthquakes and tsunami along the CSZ.
Far offshore of the CSZ are oceanic spreading ridges, the Gorda Rise and the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Because the plates are moving away from each other here (we think this is due to processes called slab pull and ridge push; slab pull describes the process that in the subduction zone, the downgoing oceanic plate is going deep into the mantle and pulling down the crust; ridge push is not really pushing from the ridge, but that there is additional mass added to the crust and this pushes down and then out, pushing the plate away from the ridge, towards the subduction zone). As these plates diverge, there is lowered pressure beneath this divergent zone. These lowered pressures cause the mantle to melt, leading to eruptions of mafic lava. When the lava cools, it becomes new oceanic crust.
Connecting the CSZ with these spreading ridges, and spreading ridges with other spreading ridges, are transform plate boundaries in the form of strike-slip faults. For example, the Mendocino fault and the Blanco fault. Here is a report that includes background information about the Mendocino fault. Here is a report with some background information about the Blamco fault.
The 18 May 2020 M 5.5 earthquake happened near the Gorda Rise and was an extensional earthquake. As the Gorda plate moves away from the spreading ridge, the normal faults formed at the ridge don’t disappear. The Gorda plate is a strange plate as it gets internally deformed, so as the plate moves towards the subduction zone, these normal faults get reactivated as strike-slip faults. These strike-slip faults have been responsible for some of the most damaging earthquakes to impact coastal northern California. More about these left-lateral strike-slip Gorda plate earthquakes can be found in a report here.
The M 5.5 earthquake happened along one of these normal faults, before that fault turns into a strike-slip fault. There is a good history of earthquakes just like this one. Here is a report for a similar event further to the north, also slightly east of the Gorda Rise.
One of the most common questions people have is, “does this earthquake change our chances for a CSZ earthquake?” The answer is no. The reason is because the stress changes from earthquakes extends for a limited distance from those earthquakes. I spend more time discussing this limitation for the Blanco fault here. Basically, this M 5.5 event was too small and too far away from the CSZ to change the chance that the CSZ will slip. Today is not different from a couple weeks ago: we always need to be ready for an earthquake when we live in earthquake country.

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 ≥ 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.
  • 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 right corner is a map and cross section for the Cascadia subduction zone. I spend more time describing these figures below.
  • In the upper left corner is a map showing this entire region with historic seismicity plotted. I also include the plate boundaries (USGS) and include the magnetic anomalies too. Read more about magnetic anomalies here. Notice how the magnetic anomaly bands are parallel to the spreading ridges. Why do you think this might be?
  • Yes, you are correct! The magnetic anomalies are parallel to the spreading ridges because they are formed when the crust cools along these spreading ridges.
  • The Gorda plate is being crushed between all the other plates in the area. This causes the plate to deform internally. The figure in the lower right corner (Chaytor et al., 2004) shows some different models to explain the faults formed from this internal deformation. The map in the upper right center, also from Chaytor et al. (2004) shows how they interpret some of these normal faults to be reactivated as strike-slip faults.
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted.

  • Here are two posters from the 2018 Gorda Rise earthquakes.

  • This version includes earthquakes M ≥ 5.0 from the USGS. Note how the region where today’s earthquakes happened is a region of higher levels of seismicity. Perhaps this is because this region is the locus of the deformation within the Mendocino deformation zone?

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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.


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: Indonesia

I had been making an update to an earthquake report on a regionally experienced M 5.6 earthquake from coastal northern California when I noticed that there was a M 7.3 earthquake in eastern Indonesia.
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/us600044zz/executive
This earthquake is in a region of strike-slip faulting (if in downgoing plate for example) or subduction thrusting, so I thought it may or may not produce a tsunami. There are also intermediate depth quakes here (deeper than subduction zone megathrust events), like this earthquake (which reduces the chance of a tsunami). While we often don’t think of strike-slip earthquakes as those that could cause a tsunami, they can trigger tsunami, albeit smaller in size than those from subduction zone earthquakes or locally for landslides. But, I checked tsunami.gov just in case (result = no tsunami locally nor regionally). I also took a look at the tide gages in the region here and here (result = no observations).
South of this earthquake is a convergent plate boundary, where the Australia plate dives northwards beneath a part of the Sunda plate (Eurasia) forming the Java and Timor trenches (subduction zones). Far to the west, on 2 June 1994 there was a subduction zone megathrust earthquake along the Java Trench. Earlier, on 19 August 1977 there was an M 8.3 earthquake, but it was not a subduction zone thrust event, but an extensional earthquake in the downgoing Australia plate (Given and Kanamori, 19080). Both 1977 and 1994 events are shown on one of the maps below. The 1977 earthquake was tsunamigenic, creating a wave observed on tide gages at Damier, Hampton, and Port Hedland in Australia (Gusman et al., 2009).
To the north of the subduction zone, there is a parallel fault system that dips in the opposite direction as the subduction zone. This is referred to as a backthrust fault (it is a thrust fault and “backwards” to the main fault). The Wetar and Flores faults are both part of this backthrust system. In JUly and August of 2018 there was a series of earthquakes near the Island of Flores associated with this backthrust. Here is my final of 3 reports on those earthquakes.
The Timor trough wraps around to the north on its eastern end and eventually forms the Seram Trench, which dips to the south. The shape of these linked trenches forms a “U” shape with the open part of the U pointing to the west. Recently it has been published that the basin formed by these fault systems is the deepest forearc basin on Earth (Pownall et al., 2016). There was a subduction zone earthquake in 1938, called the Great Banda Sea Earthquake. Okal and Reymond (2003) prepared an earthquake mechanism for this M 8.5 earthquake.
To complicate matters, there is a large strike-slip system that comes into the area from the east (Papua New Guinea) and bisects the crest of the “U” shape. This strike slip system feeds into the backthrust so that the backthrust is both a thrust fault and a strike-slip fault. There are probably separate faults that accommodate these different senses of motion. There have been a series of strike-slip earthquakes in the 20th century associated with the strike-slip motion along this boundary. For example, Osada and Abe (1981) uses seismologic records (e.g. from seismometers) to prepare an earthquake mechanism for this M 8.1 earthquake. They found that it was an oblique strike-slip earthquake. The depth was pretty shallow compared to the M 7.3 earthquake I am reporting about today.
On 17 June 1987 there was another relatively shallow M 7.1 strike-slip earthquake on this strike-slip fault system.
However, there is also a deeper strike-slip fault within the Australia plate. This fault is probably what ruptured on 2 March 2005 (M 7.1) and 10 December 2012 (M 7.1). The M 7.3 earthquake from a day ago had a similar magnitude, depth, mechanism, and location as these earlier quakes. These may have all ruptured the same fault (or not).

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 1919-2019 with magnitudes M ≥ 7.0 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. Some earthquakes have older focal mechanisms plotted in black and white.

  • 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 east-west trends of these red and blue stripes in the Caroline and Australia plates. 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 Sunda plate (part of Eurasia), so the magnetic anomalies from the overlying Sunda plate mask the evidence for the Australia plate.

    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.

  • In the upper left corner, I include a map from Benz et al. (2011) that shows historic earthquake locations (epicenters) along with some of the plate boundary faults. Note the strike slip fault (with the opposing black arrows) that cross the location of the 1938 earthquake (labeled in yellow on that map). I placed a blue star in the location of the M 7.3 quake. There is a cross section to the right of the map that shows how earthquakes dive down with a westward trend (following the plate down the subduction zone). The cross section location is shown on the map (B-B’).
  • In the upper right corner is a larger scale tectonic map from Audley (2011) showing the major thrust faults and the large forearc basin is labeled “Weber Deep.”
  • Hangesh and Whitney (2016) did lots of work on the faulting in the region to the south of the M 7.3. They show block boundaries and relative plate motion arrows in white. Note how they extend strike-slip motion along the Timor trough. This may be in addition to the strike-slip along the backthrust.
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted. I included MMI contours from a recent M 6.3 earthquake in PNG, which led to a sequence of additional M~6 quakes to the southeast of that main shock. I won’t be writing a report for those quakes, even though it is interesting (check it out!). Sorry to have misspelled Hengesh as Hangesh.

  • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity (M ≥ 7.0) plotted.

  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity (M ≥ 0.5) plotted with the Global Strain data plotted. We can see the 2018 Flores swarm show up here.

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is a tectonic map for this part of the world from Zahirovic et al., 2014. They show a fracture zone where the M 7.3 earthquake happened. I left out all the acronym definitions (you’re welcome), but they are listed in the paper.

  • Regional tectonic setting with plate boundaries (MORs/transforms = black, subduction zones = teethed red) from Bird (2003) and ophiolite belts representing sutures modified from Hutchison (1975) and Baldwin et al. (2012). West Sulawesi basalts are from Polvé et al. (1997), fracture zones are from Matthews et al. (2011) and basin outlines are from Hearn et al. (2003).

  • This is a great visualization showing the Australia plate and how it formed the largest forearc basin on Earth (Pownall et al., 2014).
  • The maps on the left show a time history of the tectonics. The low angle oblique view on the right shows the dipping crust (north is not always up, as in this figure).
  • In the lower right, they show how there is strike-slip faulting along the Seram trough also (I left out the figure caption for E).

  • Reconstructions of eastern Indonesia, adapted from Hall (2012), depict collision of Australia with Southeast Asia and slab rollback into Banda Embayment. Yellow star indicates Seram. Oceanic crust is shown in purple (older than 120 Ma) and blue (younger than 120 Ma); submarine arcs and oceanic plateaus are shown in cyan; volcanic island arcs, ophiolites, and material accreted along plate margins are shown in green. A: Reconstruction at 15 Ma. B: Reconstruction at 7 Ma. C: Reconstruction at 2 Ma. D: Visualization of present-day slab morphology of proto–Banda Sea based on earthquake hypocenter distribution and tomographic models

  • Here is a map and some cross sections showing seismic tomography (like C-T scans into the Earth using seismic waves instead of X-Rays). The map shows the location of the cross sections (Spakman et al., 2010).

  • The Banda arc and surrounding region. 200 m and 4,000 m bathymetric contours are indicated. The numbered black lines are Benioff zone contours in kilometres. The red triangles are Holocene volcanoes (http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/). Ar=Aru, Ar Tr=Aru trough, Ba=Banggai Islands, Bu=Buru, SBS=South Banda Sea, Se=Seram, Sm=Sumba, Su=Sula Islands, Ta=Tanimbar, Ta Tr=Tanimbar trough, Ti=Timor, W=Weber Deep.


    Tomographic images of the Banda slab. Vertical sections through the tomography model along the lines shown in Fig. 1. Colours: P-wave anomalies with reference to velocity model ak135 (ref. 30). Dots: earthquake hypocentres within 12 km of the section. The dashed lines are phase changes at ~410 km and ~660 km. The sections are plotted without vertical exaggeration; the horizontal axis is in degrees. The labelled positive anomalies are the Sunda (Su) and Banda (Ba) slabs: BuDdetached slab under Buru, FlDslab under Flores, SDslab under Seram, TDslab under Timor. a, The Sunda slab enters the lower mantle whereas the Banda embayment slab is entirely in the upper mantle with the change under Sulawesi. b–e, Banda slab morphology in sections parallel to Australia plate motion shows a transition from a steep slab with a flat section (fs) (b) to a spoon shape shallowing eastward (c–e).

  • Here is the tectonic map from Hengesh and Whitney (2016)

  • Illustration of major tectonic elements in triple junction geometry: tectonic features labeled per Figure 1; seismicity from ISC-GEM catalog [Storchak et al., 2013]; faults in Savu basin from Rigg and Hall [2011] and Harris et al. [2009]. Purple line is edge of Australian continental basement and fore arc [Rigg and Hall, 2011]. Abbreviations: AR = Ashmore Reef; SR = Scott Reef; RS = Rowley Shoals; TCZ = Timor Collision Zone; ST = Savu thrust; SB = Savu Basin; TT = Timor thrust; WT =Wetar thrust; WASZ = Western Australia Shear Zone. Open arrows indicate relative direction of motion; solid arrows direction of vergence.

  • Here is the Audley (2011) cross section showing how the backthrust relates to the subduction zone beneath Timor. I include their figure caption in blockquote below.

  • Cartoon cross section of Timor today, (cf. Richardson & Blundell 1996, their BIRPS figs 3b, 4b & 7; and their fig. 6 gravity model 2 after Woodside et al. 1989; and Snyder et al. 1996 their fig. 6a). Dimensions of the filled 40 km deep present-day Timor Tectonic Collision Zone are based on BIRPS seismic, earthquake seismicity and gravity data all re-interpreted here from Richardson & Blundell (1996) and from Snyder et al. (1996). NB. The Bobonaro Melange, its broken formation and other facies are not indicated, but they are included with the Gondwana mega-sequence. Note defunct Banda Trench, now the Timor TCZ, filled with Australian continental crust and Asian nappes that occupy all space between Wetar Suture and the 2–3 km deep deformation front north of the axis of the Timor Trough. Note the much younger decollement D5 used exactly the same part of the Jurassic lithology of the Gondwana mega-sequence in the older D1 decollement that produced what appears to be much stronger deformation.

  • Here is a figure showing the regional geodetic motions (Bock et al., 2003). I include their figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • Topographic and tectonic map of the Indonesian archipelago and surrounding region. Labeled, shaded arrows show motion (NUVEL-1A model) of the first-named tectonic plate relative to the second. Solid arrows are velocity vectors derived from GPS surveys from 1991 through 2001, in ITRF2000. For clarity, only a few of the vectors for Sumatra are included. The detailed velocity field for Sumatra is shown in Figure 5. Velocity vector ellipses indicate 2-D 95% confidence levels based on the formal (white noise only) uncertainty estimates. NGT, New Guinea Trench; NST, North Sulawesi Trench; SF, Sumatran Fault; TAF, Tarera-Aiduna Fault. Bathymetry [Smith and Sandwell, 1997] in this and all subsequent figures contoured at 2 km intervals.

  • Whitney and Hengesh (2015) used GPS modeling to suggest a model of plate blocks. Below are their model results.

  • Plate boundary segments in the Banda Arc region from Nugroho et al (2009). Numbers inside rectangles show possible micro-plate blocks near the Sumba Triple Junction (colored) based on GPS velocities (black arrows) with in a stable Eurasian reference frame.

  • Here is the conceptual model from Whitney and Hengesh (2015) that shows how left-lateral strike-slip faulting can come into the region.

  • Schematic map views of kinematic relations between major crustal elements in the Sumba Triple Junction region. CTZ= collisional tectonic zone. Red arrow size designates schematic plate motion relations based on geological data relative to a fixed Sunda shelf reference frame (pin).

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:

  • Audley-Charles, M.G., 1986. Rates of Neogene and Quaternary tectonic movements in the Southern Banda Arc based on micropalaeontology in: Journal of fhe Geological Society, London, Vol. 143, 1986, pp. 161-175.
  • Audley-Charles, M.G., 2011. Tectonic post-collision processes in Timor, Hall, R., Cottam, M. A. &Wilson, M. E. J. (eds) The SE Asian Gateway: History and Tectonics of the Australia–Asia Collision. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 355, 241–266.
  • Baldwin, S.L., Fitzgerald, P.G., and Webb, L.E., 2012. Tectonics of the New Guinea Region in Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., v. 41, p. 485-520.
  • Benz, H.M., Herman, Matthew, Tarr, A.C., Hayes, G.P., Furlong, K.P., Villaseñor, Antonio, Dart, R.L., and Rhea, Susan, 2011. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 New Guinea and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-H, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Given, J. W., and H. Kanamori (1980). The depth extent of the 1977 Sumbawa, Indonesia, earthquake, in EOS Trans. AGU., v. 61, p. 1044.
  • Gusnman, A.R., Tanioka, Y., Matsumoto, H., and Iwasakai, S.-I., 2009. Analysis of the Tsunami Generated by the Great 1977 Sumba Earthquake that Occurred in Indonesia in BSSA, v. 99, no. 4, p. 2169-2179, https://doi.org/10.1785/0120080324
  • Hall, R., 2011. Australia-SE Asia collision: plate tectonics and crustal flow in Geological Society, London, Special Publications 2011; v. 355; p. 75-109 doi: 10.1144/SP355.5
  • Hangesh, J. and Whitney, B., 2014. Quaternary Reactivation of Australia’s Western Passive Margin: Inception of a New Plate Boundary? in: 5th International INQUA Meeting on Paleoseismology, Active Tectonics and Archeoseismology (PATA), 21-27 September 2014, Busan, Korea, 4 pp.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Okal, E. A., & Reymond, D., 2003. The mechanism of great Banda Sea earthquake of 1 February 1938: applying the method of preliminary determination of focal mechanism to a historical event in EPSL, v. 216, p. 1-15.
  • Osada, M. and Abe, K., 1981. Mechanism and tectonic implications of the great Banda Sea earthquake of November 4, 1963 in Physics of the Earth and Plentary Interiors, v. 25, p. 129-139
  • Pownall, J.M., Hall, R., Armstrong,, R.A., and Forster, M.A., 2014. Earth’s youngest known ultrahigh-temperature granulites discovered on Seram, eastern Indonesia in Geology, v. 42, no. 4, p. 379-282, https://doi.org/10.1130/G35230.1
  • Spakman, W. and Hall, R., 2010. Surface deformation and slab–mantle interaction during Banda arc subduction rollback in Nature Geosceince, v. 3, p. 562-566, https://doi.org/10.1038/NGEO917
  • Whitney, B.B. and Hengesh, J.V., 2015. A new model for active intraplate tectonics in western Australia in Proceedings of the Tenth Pacific Conference on Earthquake Engineering Building an Earthquake-Resilient Pacific 6-8 November 2015, Sydney, Australia, paper number 82
  • Zahirovic, S., Seton, M., and Müller, R.D., 2014. The Cretaceous and Cenozoic tectonic evolution of Southeast Asia in Solid Earth, v. 5, p. 227-273, doi:10.5194/se-5-227-2014

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.


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.

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