Examination of short-period seismic data from the ML = 6.1 Kilauea south flank earthquake and aftershock sequence indicates that the rupture process in large Hawaiian earthquakes is more complex than previously modeled. In contrast to the low-angle thrust solution determined for the mainshock from long-period teleseismic body waves by other workers, I find an intermediate- to high-angle reverse solution; I find, however, that focal mechanisms for coastal aftershocks of ML > 3.0 are similar to the teleseismic mechanism for the mainshock.
A difference in focal mechanisms determined from short-period local-network seismic data and from long-period teleseismic data has been noted for other recent large Hawaiian earthquakes. Both the mapping of surface cracks and the focal mechanism derived from short-period seismic data for the ML = 6.6 1983 Kaoiki earthquake show strike-slip motion, whereas the centroid moment tensor solution shows low-angle thrusting. The focal mechanism calculated from short-period seismic data for the ML = 7.2 1975 Kalapana mainshock shows low-angle thrusting according to some workers, but intermediate- to high-angle reverse faulting according to others, whereas focal mechanisms calculated from long-period seismic data show low-angle thrusting.
This result suggests that rupture initiation in large Hawaiian earthquakes, as represented by the short-period focal mechanisms, differs significantly from the overall rupture process, as represented by the teleseismic mechanisms. I propose that small earthquakes trigger the large-scale energy release at the bases of the volcanic edifices, the type of energy release often observed in large Hawaiian earthquakes. These triggering events may occur along rupture surfaces that differ from those along which the long-period moment release occurs and thus may represent release of a local stress concentration superposed upon the regional stress field.