Abstract

The 2003 M 6.5 San Simeon, California, earthquake caused significant damage in the city of Paso Robles and a persistent cluster of aftershocks close to Paso Robles near the Rinconada fault. Given the importance of secondary aftershock triggering in sequences of large events, a concern is whether this cluster of events could trigger another damaging earthquake near Paso Robles. An epidemic‐type aftershock sequence (ETAS) model is fit to the Rinconada seismicity, and multiple realizations indicate a 0.36% probability of at least one M≥6.0 earthquake during the next 30 years. However, this probability estimate is only as good as the projection into the future of the ETAS model. There is evidence that the seismicity may be influenced by fluid pressure changes, which cannot be forecasted using ETAS. The strongest evidence for fluids is the delay between the San Simeon mainshock and a high rate of seismicity in mid to late 2004. This delay can be explained as having been caused by a pore pressure decrease due to an undrained response to the coseismic dilatation, followed by increased pore pressure during the return to equilibrium. Seismicity migration along the fault also suggests fluid involvement, although the migration is too slow to be consistent with pore pressure diffusion. All other evidence, including focal mechanisms and b‐value, is consistent with tectonic earthquakes. This suggests a model where the role of fluid pressure changes is limited to the first seven months, while the fluid pressure equilibrates. The ETAS modeling adequately fits the events after July 2004 when the pore pressure stabilizes. The ETAS models imply that while the probability of a damaging earthquake on the Rinconada fault has approximately doubled due to the San Simeon earthquake, the absolute probability remains low.

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