The 21 October 1868 Hayward, California, earthquake is among the best-characterized historical earthquakes in California. In contrast to many other moderate-to-large historical events, the causative fault is clearly established. Published magnitude estimates have been fairly consistent, ranging from 6.8 to 7.2, with 95% confidence limits including values as low as 6.5. The magnitude is of particular importance for assessment of seismic hazard associated with the Hayward fault and, more generally, to develop appropriate magnitude–rupture length scaling relations for partially creeping faults. The recent reevaluation of archival accounts by Boatwright and Bundock (2008), together with the growing volume of well-calibrated intensity data from the U.S. Geological Survey “Did You Feel It?” (DYFI) system, provide an opportunity to revisit and refine the magnitude estimate. In this study, we estimate the magnitude using two different methods that use DYFI data as calibration. Both approaches yield preferred magnitude estimates of 6.3–6.6, assuming an average stress drop. A consideration of data limitations associated with settlement patterns increases the range to 6.3–6.7, with a preferred estimate of 6.5. Although magnitude estimates for historical earthquakes are inevitably uncertain, we conclude that, at a minimum, a lower-magnitude estimate represents a credible alternative interpretation of available data. We further discuss implications of our results for probabilistic seismic-hazard assessment from partially creeping faults.

Online Material: Table of locations with intensity assignments.

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