The 1985 Central Chile Earthquake: A Repeat of Previous Great Earthquakes in the Region?

Science  25 Jul 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4762, pp. 449-453
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4762.449


A great earthquake (surface-wave magnitude, 7.8) occurred along the coast of central Chile on 3 March 1985, causing heavy damage to coastal towns. Intense foreshock activity near the epicenter of the main shock occurred for 11 days before the earthquake. The aftershocks of the 1985 earthquake define a rupture area of 170 by 110 square kilometers. The earthquake was forecast on the basis of the nearly constant repeat time (83 ± 9 years) of great earthquakes in this region. An analysis of previous earthquakes suggests that the rupture lengths of great shocks in the region vary by a factor of about 3. The nearly constant repeat time and variable rupture lengths cannot be reconciled with time- or slip-predictable models of earthquake recurrence. The great earthquakes in the region seem to involve a variable rupture mode and yet, for unknown reasons, remain periodic. Historical data suggest that the region south of the 1985 rupture zone should now be considered a gap of high seismic potential that may rupture in a great earthquake in the next few tens of years.