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Responding to Media Inquiries about Earthquake Triggering Interactions

Fan, Fang and Ye, Lingling and Kanamori, Hiroo and Lay, Thorne (2021) Responding to Media Inquiries about Earthquake Triggering Interactions. Seismological Research Letters, 92 (5). pp. 3035-3045. ISSN 0895-0695. doi:10.1785/0220200452.

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In the aftermath of a significant earthquake, seismologists are frequently asked questions by the media and public regarding possible interactions with recent prior events, including events at great distances away, along with prospects of larger events yet to come, both locally and remotely. For regions with substantial earthquake catalogs that provide information on the regional Gutenberg–Richter magnitude–frequency relationship, Omori temporal aftershock statistical behavior, and aftershock productivity parameters, probabilistic responses can be provided for likelihood of nearby future events of larger magnitude, as well as expected behavior of the overall aftershock sequence. However, such procedures generally involve uncertain extrapolations of parameterized equations to infrequent large events and do not provide answers to inquiries about long‐range interactions, either retrospectively for interaction with prior remote large events or prospectively for interaction with future remote large events. Dynamic triggering that may be involved in such long‐range interactions occurs, often with significant temporal delay, but is not well understood, making it difficult to respond to related inquiries. One approach to addressing such inquiries is to provide retrospective or prospective occurrence histories for large earthquakes based on global catalogs; while not providing quantitative understanding of any physical interaction, experience‐based guidance on the (typically very low) chances of causal interactions can inform public understanding of likelihood of specific scenarios they are commonly very interested in.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemUSGS National Earthquake Information Center
Ye, Lingling0000-0001-9689-4149
Kanamori, Hiroo0000-0001-8219-9428
Lay, Thorne0000-0003-2360-4213
Additional Information:© 2021 Seismological Society of America. Manuscript received 8 December 2020; Published online 14 April 2021. The authors thank Emily Brodsky at University of California Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz) and colleagues at seismo‐coffee at both UC Santa Cruz and California Institution of Technology for initial discussions about this project. Thoughtful reviews by Nicholas van der Elst, John Ebel, and Kuo‐Fong Ma prompted improvements of the presentation. Masatoshi Miyazawa provided helpful suggestions on this article. Lingling Ye’s earthquake study is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (41874056, 41790465, and U1901602). Thorne Lay’s earthquake research is supported by National Science Foundation (Grant EAR1802364). Data and Resources: Earthquake information is based on the catalog from National Earthquake Information Center at U.S. Geological Survey (USGS‐NEIC;, last accessed November 2020). The supplemental material includes scripts to search and plot foreshock–mainshock pairs, along with necessary databases, and the sequence plots of all M 6.0+ mainshocks preceded by an M 6.0+ events in 10 and 21 days within the distances of 50, 100, 330, and 1000 km. All figures were made using Generic Mapping Tools (GMT; Wessel et al., 2013). The authors acknowledge there are no conflicts of interest recorded.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Natural Science Foundation of China41874056
National Natural Science Foundation of China41790465
National Natural Science Foundation of ChinaU1901602
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20211005-220615441
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Fang Fan, Lingling Ye, Hiroo Kanamori, Thorne Lay; Responding to Media Inquiries about Earthquake Triggering Interactions. Seismological Research Letters 2021; 92 (5): 3035–3045. doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:111227
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:05 Oct 2021 23:38
Last Modified:05 Oct 2021 23:38

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