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Published July 15, 1968 | Published
Journal Article Open

Seismic moment, stress, and source dimensions for earthquakes in the California-Nevada region


The source mechanism of earthquakes in the California‐Nevada region was studied using surface wave analyses, surface displacement observations in the source region, magnitude determinations, and accurate epicenter locations. Fourier analyses of surface waves from thirteen earthquakes in the Parkfield region have yielded the following relationship between seismic moment, M_0 and Richter magnitude, M_L: log M_0 = 1.4 M_L + 17.0, where 3 < M_L < 6. The following relation between the surface wave envelope parameter AR and seismic moment was obtained: log M_0 = log AR_(300) + 20.1. This relation was used to estimate the seismic moment of 259 additional earthquakes in the western United States. The combined data yield the following relationship between moment and local magnitude: log M_0 = 1.7 M_L + 15.1, where 3 < ML < 6. These data together with the Gutenberg‐Richter energy‐magnitude formula suggest that the average stress multiplied by the seismic efficiency is about 7 bars for small earthquakes at Parkfield and in the Imperial Valley, about 30 bars for small earthquakes near Wheeler Ridge on the White Wolf fault, and over 100 bars for small earthquakes in the Arizona‐Nevada and Laguna Salada (Baja California) regions. Field observations of displacement associated with eight Parkfield shocks, along with estimates of fault area, indicate that fault dimensions similar to the values found earlier for the Imperial earthquake are the rule rather than the exception for small earthquakes along the San Andreas fault. Stress drops appear to be about 10% of the average stress multiplied by the seismic efficiency. The revised curve for the moment versus magnitude further emphasizes that small earthquakes are not important in strain release and indicate that the zone of shear may be about 6 km in vertical extent for the Imperial Valley and even less for oceanic transform faults.

Additional Information

© 1968 by the American Geophysical Union. Received January 25, 1968; revised March 18, 1968. We wish to thank Dr. C.R. Allen, who kindly read the manuscript. Special thanks are given to Mrs. Barbara Sloan and Mr. Laszlo Lenches who helped to prepare the manuscript. This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant GA 1087 and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Office of Aerospace Research, United States Air Force, under AFOSR contract AF-49(638)-1337. Contribution 1513, Division of Geological Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.

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October 18, 2023