Abstract

In December 1984, Ryall and Hill noted that the five principal events in the Bishop-Mammoth Lakes earthquake sequence occurred at intervals of about 1.5 yr with a standard deviation for an individual event of 0.25 yr. Some data selection was involved in identifying the principal events, although the choices seemed reasonable. The recent Chalfant Valley earthquake (ML = 6.4; 21 July 1986) followed the last prior principal event in the Bishop-Mammoth Lakes sequence by 1.65 yr, and no important activity intervened except one aftershock from the prior event. Thus, the Chalfant Valley earthquake could have been forecast from the observed periodicity. However, the precision of the forecast (±0.8 yr for the 95 per cent confidence interval) is not sufficient to furnish convincing evidence that the Bishop-Mammoth Lakes sequence is quasi-periodic. Extrapolation of the trend established by the six previous events suggests that the next event in the Bishop-Mammoth Lakes sequence would be expected in December 1987 ± 0.7 yr (95 per cent confidence interval). The regularity of the Bishop-Mammoth Lakes sequence is comparable to that of the Parkfield, California, sequence (average interevent interval 20.8 yr with a standard deviation for an individual interval of 6.2 yr). Both sequences consist of six events. There is a plausible physical explanation for the periodicity observed at Parkfield; such an explanation for the Bishop-Mammoth Lakes sequence is lacking.

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