The San Salvador earthquake of October 10, 1986 originated along the Central American volcanic chain within the upper crust of the Caribbean Plate. Results from a local seismograph network show a tectonic style main shock-aftershock sequence, with a magnitude, Mw, 5.6. The hypocenter was located 7.3 km below the south edge of San Salvador. The main shock ruptured along a nearly vertical plane toward the north-northeast. A main shock fault-plane solution shows a nearly vertical fault plane striking N32\sz\E, with left-lateral sense of motion. This earthquake is the second Central American volcanic chain earthquake documented with left-lateral slip on a fault perpendicular to the volcanic chain. During the 2 1/2 years preceeding the earthquake, minor microseismicity was noted near the epicenter, but we show that this has been common along the volcanic chain since at least 1953. San Salvador was previously damaged by a volcanic chain earthquake on May 3, 1965. The locations of six foreshocks preceding the 1965 shock show a distinctly WNW-trending distribution. This observation, together with the distribution of damage and a fault-plane solution, suggest that right-lateral slip occurred along a fault sub-parallel with Central American volcanic chain. We believe this is the first time such motion has been documented along the volcanic chain. This earthquake was also unusual in that it was preceded by a foreshock sequence more energetic than the aftershock sequence. Earlier this century, on June 08, 1917, an Ms 6.4 earthquake occurred 30 to 40 km west of San Salvador Volcano. Only 30 minutes later, an Ms 6.3 earthquake occurred, centered at the volcano, and about 35 minutes later the volcano erupted. In 1919 an Ms 6 earthquake occurred, centered at about the epicenter of the 1986 earthquake. We conclude that the volcanic chain is seismically very active with variable styles of seismicity.

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