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Published June 1984 | Published
Journal Article Open

The effects of tectonic release on short-period P waves from NTS explosions


The first cycle (ab amplitude) of teleseismic short-period P waves from underground nuclear explosions at Pahute Mesa (NTS) show a systematic azimuthal amplitude pattern that can possibly be explained by tectonic release. The amplitudes vary by a factor of three, with diminished amplitudes being recorded at azimuths around N25°E. This azimuthal pattern has a strong sin(2φ) component and is observed, to varying degrees, for 25 Pahute Mesa events, but not for events at other sites within the NTS. Events that are known to have large tectonic release have more pronounced sin(2φ) amplitude variations. A synthesis of long-period body and surface wave investigations of tectonic release for Pahute Mesa events shows that, in general, the nonisotropic radiation is equivalent to nearly vertical, right-lateral strike-slip faulting trending from N20°W to due north. Long-period P waves at upper mantle distances demonstrate that there is a significant high-frequency component to the tectonic release. Using the long-period constraints on orientation, moment, and frequency content of the tectonic release, the expected short-period P wave effects are predicted. For models in which the downgoing P wave from the explosion triggers tectonic release within a few kilometers below the shot point, a factor of 2.5 amplitude variation with azimuth is predicted for the short-period ab amplitudes, with the lowest amplitudes expected near N25°E. Rather subtle azimuthal variations in the waveforms are expected, particularly for downward propagating ruptures, which is consistent with the absence of strong variations in the data. The occurrence of the azimuthal pattern, albeit with varying strength, for all of the Pahute Mesa events suggests a tectonic release model in which the shatterzone surrounding the explosion cavity is extended preferentially downward by driving a distributed network of faults and joints underlying the Mesa several kilometers beneath the surface. In this model, all events could have a component of tectonic release which would reflect the regional stress regime, although there may be slight spatial and temporal variations in the tectonic release contribution. Some events may trigger slip on larger throughgoing faults as well. While it is shown that tectonic release can affect teleseismic short-period signals significantly, and may contribute to the Pahute Mesa amplitude pattern, other possible explanations are considered.

Additional Information

© 1984 Seismological Society of America. Manuscript received 12 September 1983. We thank Larry Burdick for his comments. We appreciate the assistance of Gladys Engen in generating the synthetics in Figure 3, and Cindy Arvesen who digitized the waveforms and typed the manuscript. This research was supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense and was monitored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under Contract F49620-83-C-0025.

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