Tectonic earthquake swarms challenge our understanding of earthquake processes since it is difficult to link observations to the underlying physical mechanisms and to assess the hazard they pose. Transient forcing is thought to initiate and drive the spatio-temporal release of energy during swarms. The nature of the transient forcing may vary across sequences and range from aseismic creeping or transient slip to diffusion of pore pressure pulses to fluid redistribution and migration within the seismogenic crust. Distinguishing between such forcing mechanisms may be critical to reduce epistemic uncertainties in the assessment of hazard due to seismic swarms, because it can provide information on the frequency–magnitude distribution of the earthquakes (often deviating from the assumed Gutenberg–Richter relation) and on the expected source parameters influencing the ground motion (for example the stress drop). Here we study the ongoing Pollino range (Southern Italy) seismic swarm, a long-lasting seismic sequence with more than five thousand events recorded and located since October 2010. The two largest shocks (magnitude Mw = 4.2 and Mw = 5.1) are among the largest earthquakes ever recorded in an area which represents a seismic gap in the Italian historical earthquake catalogue. We investigate the geometrical, mechanical and statistical characteristics of the largest earthquakes and of the entire swarm. We calculate the focal mechanisms of the Ml > 3 events in the sequence and the transfer of Coulomb stress on nearby known faults and analyse the statistics of the earthquake catalogue. We find that only 25 per cent of the earthquakes in the sequence can be explained as aftershocks, and the remaining 75 per cent may be attributed to a transient forcing. The b-values change in time throughout the sequence, with low b-values correlated with the period of highest rate of activity and with the occurrence of the largest shock. In the light of recent studies on the palaeoseismic and historical activity in the Pollino area, we identify two scenarios consistent with the observations and our analysis: This and past seismic swarms may have been ‘passive’ features, with small fault patches failing on largely locked faults, or may have been accompanied by an ‘active’, largely aseismic, release of a large portion of the accumulated tectonic strain. Those scenarios have very different implications for the seismic hazard of the area.

Aseismic transient driving the swarm-like seismic sequence in the Pollino range, Southern Italy

Passarelli, Luigi;Maccaferri, Francesco;Rivalta, Eleonora
2015

Abstract

Tectonic earthquake swarms challenge our understanding of earthquake processes since it is difficult to link observations to the underlying physical mechanisms and to assess the hazard they pose. Transient forcing is thought to initiate and drive the spatio-temporal release of energy during swarms. The nature of the transient forcing may vary across sequences and range from aseismic creeping or transient slip to diffusion of pore pressure pulses to fluid redistribution and migration within the seismogenic crust. Distinguishing between such forcing mechanisms may be critical to reduce epistemic uncertainties in the assessment of hazard due to seismic swarms, because it can provide information on the frequency–magnitude distribution of the earthquakes (often deviating from the assumed Gutenberg–Richter relation) and on the expected source parameters influencing the ground motion (for example the stress drop). Here we study the ongoing Pollino range (Southern Italy) seismic swarm, a long-lasting seismic sequence with more than five thousand events recorded and located since October 2010. The two largest shocks (magnitude Mw = 4.2 and Mw = 5.1) are among the largest earthquakes ever recorded in an area which represents a seismic gap in the Italian historical earthquake catalogue. We investigate the geometrical, mechanical and statistical characteristics of the largest earthquakes and of the entire swarm. We calculate the focal mechanisms of the Ml > 3 events in the sequence and the transfer of Coulomb stress on nearby known faults and analyse the statistics of the earthquake catalogue. We find that only 25 per cent of the earthquakes in the sequence can be explained as aftershocks, and the remaining 75 per cent may be attributed to a transient forcing. The b-values change in time throughout the sequence, with low b-values correlated with the period of highest rate of activity and with the occurrence of the largest shock. In the light of recent studies on the palaeoseismic and historical activity in the Pollino area, we identify two scenarios consistent with the observations and our analysis: This and past seismic swarms may have been ‘passive’ features, with small fault patches failing on largely locked faults, or may have been accompanied by an ‘active’, largely aseismic, release of a large portion of the accumulated tectonic strain. Those scenarios have very different implications for the seismic hazard of the area.
Passarelli, Luigi; Hainzl, Sebastian; Cesca, Simone; Maccaferri, Francesco; Mucciarelli, Marco; Roessler, Dirk; Corbi, Fabio; Dahm, Torsten; Rivalta, Eleonora
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