Research ArticleEARTHQUAKES

Stress drops of induced and tectonic earthquakes in the central United States are indistinguishable

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Science Advances  02 Aug 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 8, e1700772
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700772

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Induced earthquakes currently pose a significant hazard in the central United States, but there is considerable uncertainty about the severity of their ground motions. We measure stress drops of 39 moderate-magnitude induced and tectonic earthquakes in the central United States and eastern North America. Induced earthquakes, more than half of which are shallower than 5 km, show a comparable median stress drop to tectonic earthquakes in the central United States that are dominantly strike-slip but a lower median stress drop than that of tectonic earthquakes in the eastern North America that are dominantly reverse-faulting. This suggests that ground motion prediction equations developed for tectonic earthquakes can be applied to induced earthquakes if the effects of depth and faulting style are properly considered. Our observation leads to the notion that, similar to tectonic earthquakes, induced earthquakes are driven by tectonic stresses.

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