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Nature. 2004 Feb 19;427(6976):724-7.

Aftershocks driven by a high-pressure CO2 source at depth.

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  • 1Institute of Geophysics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), 8093 Z├╝rich, Switzerland. steve.miller@erdw.ethz.ch

Abstract

In northern Italy in 1997, two earthquakes of magnitudes 5.7 and 6 (separated by nine hours) marked the beginning of a sequence that lasted more than 30 days, with thousands of aftershocks including four additional events with magnitudes between 5 and 6. This normal-faulting sequence is not well explained with models of elastic stress transfer, particularly the persistence of hanging-wall seismicity that included two events with magnitudes greater than 5. Here we show that this sequence may have been driven by a fluid pressure pulse generated from the coseismic release of a known deep source of trapped high-pressure carbon dioxide (CO2). We find a strong correlation between the high-pressure front and the aftershock hypocentres over a two-week period, using precise hypocentre locations and a simple model of nonlinear diffusion. The triggering amplitude (10-20 MPa) of the pressure pulse overwhelms the typical (0.1-0.2 MPa) range from stress changes in the usual stress triggering models. We propose that aftershocks of large earthquakes in such geologic environments may be driven by the coseismic release of trapped, high-pressure fluids propagating through damaged zones created by the mainshock. This may provide a link between earthquakes, aftershocks, crust/mantle degassing and earthquake-triggered large-scale fluid flow.

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