Clustering and Periodic Recurrence of Microearthquakes on the San Andreas Fault at Parkfield, California

Science  27 Jan 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5197, pp. 503-507
DOI: 10.1126/science.267.5197.503


The San Andreas fault at Parkfield, California, apparently late in an interval between repeating magnitude 6 earthquakes, is yielding to tectonic loading partly by seismic slip concentrated in a relatively sparse distribution of small clusters (<20-meter radius) of microearthquakes. Within these clusters, which account for 63% of the earthquakes in a 1987-92 study interval, virtually identical small earthquakes occurred with a regularity that can be described by the statistical model used previously in forecasting large characteristic earthquakes. Sympathetic occurrence of microearthquakes in nearby clusters was observed within a range of about 200 meters at communication speeds of 10 to 100 centimeters per second. The rate of earthquake occurrence, particularly at depth, increased significantly during the study period, but the fraction of earthquakes that were cluster members decreased.

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