Some of the abundant and unique geological and seismological data acquired at the Nevada Test Site is integrated with the objectives of (1) resolving some of the ambiguity in explanations of the source of aftershocks of nuclear explosions, and (2) demonstrating the value of using detailed geological and seismological data to infer realistic source parameters of earthquakes.
The distribution of epicenters of aftershocks from nuclear explosions at Pahute Mesa suggests that they are related to faults or intersections of faults in the buried ring-fracture zones of calderas rather than to the conspicuous basin-and-range faults exposed at the surface. Histograms of fault length show clearly that faults in a basin-and-range regime differ significantly in length, median length, and distribution of length from faults in a caldera regime. A histogram of fault lengths derived from magnitudes of aftershocks shows both the median and distribution charactersitics of caldera faults rather than of basin-and-range faults. Cumulative frequency-fault length-squared plots also show differences in the two fault regimes, and have slopes, herein called bf slopes, of −0.89 and −1.08 for caldera and basin-and-range faults, respectively. The bf slopes are similar to the average slope of a cumulative frequency-strain plot for aftershocks rather than to the b slopes for cumulative frequency-magnitude plots. Although the significance of b and bf slopes and differences between them are not resolved clearly, it is concluded that the fault length and strain data reflect dimensions of seismic sources rather than energy of seismic events.
The principal conclusion of the investigation is that the most obvious geology of a seismically active area may not provide the proper basis for inferring seismicsource parameters.