Abstract

We show how the maximum magnitude within a predefined future time horizon may be estimated from an earthquake catalog within the context of Gutenberg–Richter statistics. The aim is to carry out a rigorous uncertainty assessment, and calculate precise confidence intervals based on an imposed level of confidence α. In detail, we present a model for the estimation of the maximum magnitude to occur in a time interval Tf in the future, given a complete earthquake catalog for a time period T in the past and, if available, paleoseismic events. For this goal, we solely assume that earthquakes follow a stationary Poisson process in time with unknown productivity Λ and obey the Gutenberg–Richter law in magnitude domain with unknown b‐value. The random variables Λ and b are estimated by means of Bayes theorem with noninformative prior distributions. Results based on synthetic catalogs and on retrospective calculations of historic catalogs from the highly active area of Japan and the low‐seismicity, but high‐risk region lower Rhine embayment (LRE) in Germany indicate that the estimated magnitudes are close to the true values. Finally, we discuss whether the techniques can be extended to meet the safety requirements for critical facilities such as nuclear power plants. For this aim, the maximum magnitude for all times has to be considered. In agreement with earlier work, we find that this parameter is not a useful quantity from the viewpoint of statistical inference.

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