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Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 10;7(1):4945. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-04992-z.

The Pawnee earthquake as a result of the interplay among injection, faults and foreshocks.

Author information

1
ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics, the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA. xiaowei.chen@ou.edu.
2
ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics, the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA.
3
Oklahoma Geological Survey, the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA.
4
University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China.
5
Department of Geological Science, Caltech, Pasadena, USA.
6
State Key Laboratory of Geodesy and Earth's Dynamics, Institute of Geodesy and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Science, Wuhan, China.

Abstract

The Pawnee M5.8 earthquake is the largest event in Oklahoma instrument recorded history. It occurred near the edge of active seismic zones, similar to other M5+ earthquakes since 2011. It ruptured a previously unmapped fault and triggered aftershocks along a complex conjugate fault system. With a high-resolution earthquake catalog, we observe propagating foreshocks leading to the mainshock within 0.5 km distance, suggesting existence of precursory aseismic slip. At approximately 100 days before the mainshock, two M ≥ 3.5 earthquakes occurred along a mapped fault that is conjugate to the mainshock fault. At about 40 days before, two earthquakes clusters started, with one M3 earthquake occurred two days before the mainshock. The three M ≥ 3 foreshocks all produced positive Coulomb stress at the mainshock hypocenter. These foreshock activities within the conjugate fault system are near-instantaneously responding to variations in injection rates at 95% confidence. The short time delay between injection and seismicity differs from both the hypothetical expected time scale of diffusion process and the long time delay observed in this region prior to 2016, suggesting a possible role of elastic stress transfer and critical stress state of the fault. Our results suggest that the Pawnee earthquake is a result of interplay among injection, tectonic faults, and foreshocks.

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