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Published August 1979 | Published
Journal Article Open

The horse canyon earthquake of August 2, 1975—Two-stage stress-release process in a strike-slip earthquake


A moderate strike-slip earthquake (M_L = 4.8) occurred on the San Jacinto fault system about 60 km northwest of the Salton Sea on August 2, 1975. Analysis of main shock and aftershock data suggest that stress release during this earthquake took place in two stages. During one stage faulting occurred over a relatively small source area (source radius of ∼0.5 km), with a rapid dislocaton rate (rise time ∼0.1 sec), possibly associated with an asperity on the fault. During the second stage of faulting, the rupture front grew, but at a much slower rate (rise time ∼10 sec), to a final source radius of ∼1.0 km. The above model explains the larger moment estimate based on 20-sec surface waves compared to shorter period body-wave estimates, and also the apparent increase in source dimension with time. The model allows for large stress drops over small source dimensions, but when averaged over the final extent of the rupture plane, stress drops are much lower. The rupture of the asperity is characterized by a moment of 6.5 × 10^(22) dyne-cm and a stress drop of about 225 bars. The total moment is about 3.0 × 10^(23) dyne-cm with an averaged stress drop over the fault plane of approximately 90 bars and a dislocation of 25 cm. Observations similar to the ones reported on here have been noted for other earthquakes with a wide range of magnitudes, including: a few large earthquakes in Japan, the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and some of its aftershocks, the 1975 Oroville earthquake, and some swarm events in the Imperial Valley. These observations suggest that a two-stage rupture mechanism may be a fairly common occurrence in shallow faulting and may reflect possible large variations in stress over a length scale of kilometers within the crust.

Additional Information

Copyright © 1979, by the Seismological Society of America. Manuscript received September 28, 1978. Jerry King and William Prothero assisted in the field work. The strong-motion records were supplied by the Engineering Department of the California Institute of Technology. Hiroo Kanamori kindly supplied results prior to publication. This work was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant DES74-03188 and National Aeronautics and Space Administration Grant NGR 05-009-246, and is a contribution of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

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August 19, 2023
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