Extending Earthquakes' Reach Through Cascading

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Science  22 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5866, pp. 1076-1079
DOI: 10.1126/science.1148783

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Earthquakes, whatever their size, can trigger other earthquakes. Mainshocks cause aftershocks to occur, which in turn activate their own local aftershock sequences, resulting in a cascade of triggering that extends the reach of the initial mainshock. A long-lasting difficulty is to determine which earthquakes are connected, either directly or indirectly. Here we show that this causal structure can be found probabilistically, with no a priori model nor parameterization. Large regional earthquakes are found to have a short direct influence in comparison to the overall aftershock sequence duration. Relative to these large mainshocks, small earthquakes collectively have a greater effect on triggering. Hence, cascade triggering is a key component in earthquake interactions.

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