The 2012 Brawley swarm triggered by injection-induced aseismic slip

Wei, S., J. Avouac, K. Hudnut, A. Donnellan, J. W. Parker, R. W. Graves, D. Helmberger, E. Fielding, Z. Liu, F. Cappa, and M. Eneva (2015), The 2012 Brawley swarm triggered by injection-induced aseismic slip, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 422, 115-125, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.03.054.

It has long been known that fluid injection or withdrawal can induce earthquakes, but the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. For example, the 2012 Brawley swarm, which produced two strike-slip shocks with magnitudes larger than 5.3 and surface ruptures in the close vicinity of a geothermal field, started with earthquakes about 5 km deeper than the injection depth (∼1.5 km). This makes the causality between the injection and seismicity unclear. Here, we jointly analyze broadband and strong motion waveforms, UAVSAR, leveling measurements and field observations to reveal the detailed seismic and aseismic faulting behaviors associated with the 2012 Brawley swarm. In particular, path calibration established from smaller events in the swarm allows waveform inversion to be conducted up to 3 Hz to resolve finite rupture process of the Mw 4.7 normal event. Our results show that the 2012 earthquake sequence was preceded by aseismic slip on a shallow normal fault beneath the geothermal field. Aseismic slip initiated in 2010 when injection rate rapidly increased and triggered the following earthquakes subsequently, including unusually shallow and relatively high frequency seismic excitations on the normal fault. In this example, seismicity is induced indirectly by fluid injection, a result of mediation by aseismic creep, rather than directly by a pore pressure increase at the location of the earthquakes.

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Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)