Stress-driven recurrence and precursory moment-rate surge in caldera collapse earthquakes

Nature Geoscience
By: , and 



Predicting the recurrence times of earthquakes and understanding the physical processes that immediately precede them are two outstanding problems in seismology. Although geodetic measurements record elastic strain accumulation, most faults have recurrence intervals longer than available measurements. Foreshocks provide the principal observations of processes before mainshocks, but variability between sequences limits generalizations of pre-failure behaviour. Here we analyse seismicity and deformation data for highly characteristic caldera collapse earthquakes from 2018 Kīlauea Volcano (Hawaii, USA), with a mean recurrence interval of 1.4 days. These events provide a unique test of stress-induced earthquake recurrence and document processes preceding mainshocks with magnitude greater than five. We show that recurrence intervals are well predicted by stress histories inferred from near-field deformation measurements and that cycle-averaged seismicity reveals a critical phase, minutes before mainshocks, where earthquakes grew larger and seismic moment rate surged dramatically. The average moment rate in the final 15 minutes (0.7% of the mean cycle duration) was 4.75 times the background, a highly significant change. We infer that as the average stress increased, ruptures were more likely to overcome geometric barriers and grow larger, leading to characteristic, whole-fault ruptures. These findings imply that stress heterogeneity influences both earthquake nucleation and growth, including on potentially hazardous tectonic faults.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Stress-driven recurrence and precursory moment-rate surge in caldera collapse earthquakes
Series title Nature Geoscience
DOI 10.1038/s41561-023-01372-3
Volume 17
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center, Volcano Science Center
Description 6 p.
First page 264
Last page 269
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