Abstract

We compile a worldwide catalog of shallow (depth < 70 km) and large (Ms ≥ 7) earthquakes recorded between 1900 and 1989. The catalog is shown to be complete and uniform at the 20-sec surface-wave magnitude Ms ≥ 7.0. We base our catalog on those of Abe (1981, 1984) and Abe and Noguchi (1983a, b) for events with Ms ≥ 7.0. Those catalogs, however, are not homogeneous in seismicity rates for the entire 90-year period. We assume that global rates of seismicity are constant on a time scale of decades and most inhomogeneities arise from changes in instrumentation and/or reporting. We correct the magnitudes to produce a homogeneous catalog. The catalog is accompanied by a reference list for all the events with seismic moment determined at periods longer than 20 sec. Using these seismic moments for great and giant earthquakes and a moment-magnitude relationship for smaller events, we produce a seismic moment catalog for large earthquakes from 1900 to 1989. The catalog is used to study the distribution of moment released worldwide. Although we assumed a constant rate of seismicity on a global basis, the rate of moment release has not been constant for the 90-year period because the latter is dominated by the few largest earthquakes. We find that the seismic moment released at subduction zones during this century constitutes 90% of all the moment released by large, shallow earthquakes on a global basis. The seismic moment released in the largest event that occurred during this century, the 1960 southern Chile earthquake, represents about 30 to 45% of the total moment released from 1900 through 1989. A frequency-size distribution of earthquakes with seismic moment yields an average slope (b value) that changes from 1.04 for magnitudes between 7.0 and 7.5 to b = 1.51 for magnitudes between 7.6 and 8.0. This change in the b value is attributed to different scaling relationships between bounded (large) and unbounded (small) earthquakes. Thus, the earthquake process does have a characteristic length scale that is set by the downdip width over which rupture in earthquakes can occur. That width is typically greater for thrust events at subduction zones than for earthquakes along transform faults and other tectonic environments.

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