Research ArticleGEOPHYSICS

Induced seismicity provides insight into why earthquake ruptures stop

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Science Advances  20 Dec 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 12, eaap7528
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aap7528

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Injection-induced earthquakes pose a serious seismic hazard but also offer an opportunity to gain insight into earthquake physics. Currently used models relating the maximum magnitude of injection-induced earthquakes to injection parameters do not incorporate rupture physics. We develop theoretical estimates, validated by simulations, of the size of ruptures induced by localized pore-pressure perturbations and propagating on prestressed faults. Our model accounts for ruptures growing beyond the perturbed area and distinguishes self-arrested from runaway ruptures. We develop a theoretical scaling relation between the largest magnitude of self-arrested earthquakes and the injected volume and find it consistent with observed maximum magnitudes of injection-induced earthquakes over a broad range of injected volumes, suggesting that, although runaway ruptures are possible, most injection-induced events so far have been self-arrested ruptures.

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