A model for the far-field acceleration radiated by an incoherent rupture is constructed by combining Madariaga's (1977) theory for the high-frequency radiation from crack models of faulting with a simple statistical source model. By extending Madariaga's results to acceleration pulses with finite durations, the peak acceleration of a pulse radiated by a single stop or start of a crack tip is shown to depend on the dynamic stress drop of the subevent, the total change in rupture velocity, and the ratio of the subevent radius to the acceleration pulse width. An incoherent rupture is approximated by a sample from a self-similar distribution of coherent subevents. Assuming the subevents fit together without overlapping, the high-frequency level of the acceleration spectra depends linearly on the rms dynamic stress drop, the average change in rupture velocity, and the square root of the overall rupture area. The high-frequency level is independent, to first order, of the rupture complexity. Following Hanks (1979), simple approximations are derived for the relation between the rms dynamic stress drop and the rms acceleration, averaged over the pulse duration. This relation necessarily depends on the shape of the body-wave spectra.
The body waves radiated by 10 small earthquakes near Monticello Dam, South Carolina, are analyzed to test these results. The average change of rupture velocity of Δv = 0.8β associated with the radiation of the acceleration pulses is estimated by comparing the rms acceleration contained in the P waves to that in the S waves. The rms dynamic stress drops of the 10 events, estimated from the rms accelerations, range from 0.4 to 1.9 bars and are strongly correlated with estimates of the apparent stress.