Seismic attenuation and stress on the San Andreas Fault at Parkfield: Are we critical yet?

Frontiers in Earth Science
By: , and 



The Parkfield transitional segment of the San Andreas Fault (SAF) is characterized by the production of frequent quasi-periodical M6 events that break the very same asperity. The last Parkfield mainshock occurred on 28 September 2004, 38 years after the 1966 earthquake, and after the segment showed a ∼22 years average recurrence time. The main reason for the much longer interevent period between the last two earthquakes is thought to be the reduction of the Coulomb stress from the M6.5 Coalinga earthquake of 2 May 1983, and the M6 Nuñez events of June 11th and 22 July 1983. Plausibly, the transitional segment of the SAF at Parkfield is now in the late part of its seismic cycle and current observations may all be relative to a state of stress close to criticality. However, the behavior of the attenuation parameter in the last few years seems substantially different from the one that characterized the years prior to the 2004 mainshock. A few questions arise: (i) Does a detectable preparation phase for the Parkfield mainshocks exist, and is it the same for all events? (ii) How dynamically/kinematically similar are the quasi-periodic occurrences of the Parkfield mainshocks? (iii) Are some dynamic/kinematic characteristics of the next mainshock predictable from the analysis of current data? (e.g., do we expect the epicenter of the next failure to be co-located to that of 2004?) (iv) Should we expect the duration of the current interseismic period to be close to the 22-year “undisturbed” average value? We respond to the questions listed above by analyzing the non-geometric attenuation of direct S-waves along the transitional segment of the SAF at Parkfield, in the close vicinity of the fault plane, between January 2001 and November 2023. Of particular interest is the preparatory behavior of the attenuation parameter as the 2004 mainshock approached, on both sides of the SAF. We also show that the non-volcanic tremor activity modulates the seismic attenuation in the area, and possibly the seismicity along the Parkfield fault segment, including the occurrence of the mainshocks.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Seismic attenuation and stress on the San Andreas Fault at Parkfield: Are we critical yet?
Series title Frontiers in Earth Science
DOI 10.3389/feart.2024.1349425
Volume 12
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Frontiers Media
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 1349425; 16 p.
Country United States
State California
City Parkfield
Other Geospatial Sand Andreas Fault
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details