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Published August 1993 | Published
Journal Article Open

Source study of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake


All quality teleseismic recordings of the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake archived in the 1908 Carnegie Report by the State Earthquake Investigation Commission were scanned and digitized. First order results were obtained by comparing complexity and amplitudes of teleseismic waveforms from the 1906 earthquake with well calibrated, similarly located, more recent earthquakes (1979 Coyote Lake, 1984 Morgan Hill, and 1989 Loma Prieta earthquakes) at nearly co-located modern stations. Peak amplitude ratios for calibration events indicated that a localized moment release of about 1 to 1.5 × 10^(27) dyne-cm was responsible for producing the peak the teleseismic body wave arrivals. At longer periods (50 to 80 sec), we found spectral amplitude ratios of the surface waves require a total moment release between 4 and 6 × 10^(27) dyne-cm for the 1906 earthquake, comparable to previous geodetic and surface wave estimates (Thatcher, 1975). We then made a more detailed source analysis using Morgan Hill S body waves as empirical Green's Functions in a finite fault subevent summation. The Morgan Hill earthquake was deemed most appropriate for this purpose as its mechanism is that of the 1906 earthquake in the central portion of the rupture. From forward and inverse empirical summations of Morgan Hill Green's functions, we obtained a good fit to the best quality teleseismic waveforms with a relatively simple source model having two regions of localized strong radiation separated spatially by about 110 km. Assuming the 1906 epicenter determined by Bolt (1968), this corresponds with a large asperity (on the order of the Loma Prieta earthquake) in the Golden Gate/San Francisco region and one about three times larger located northwest along strike between Point Reyes and Fort Ross. This model implies that much of the 1906 rupture zone may have occurred with relatively little 10 to 20 sec radiation. Consideration of the amplitude and frequency content of the 1906 teleseismic data allowed us to estimate the scale length of the largest asperity to be less than about 40 km. With rough constraints on the largest asperity (size and magnitude) we produced a suite of estimated synthetic ground velocities assuming a slip distribution similar to that of the Loma Prieta earthquake but with three times as much slip. For purposes of comparison with the recent, abundant Loma Prieta strong motion data set, we "moved" the largest 1906 asperity into Loma Prieta region. Peak ground velocity amplitudes are substantially greater than those recorded during the Loma Prieta earthquake, and are comparable to those predicted by the attenuation relationship of Joyner and Boore (1988) for a magnitude M_W = 7.7 earthquake.

Additional Information

© 1993 Seismological Society of America. Manuscript received 6 July 1992. We thank O. Kulhanek, K. Singh, and S. Duda for assistance with data collection. Nell Humphreys developed the digitizing software. Conversations with Mike Lisowski, Dorothy Merrits, Paul Segall, and David Schwartz were informative, and Stephen Hartzell provided assistance in the uncertainty estimation. The original manuscript was improved by Lisa Wald and Paul Somerville. A careful, critical review by Larry Ruff was appreciated and helped clarify the presentation. This work was supported by the NSF grant EAR9003464. Contribution number 5184 of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology.

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