Abstract

We have developed an approach to test the viability of dynamic strains as a triggering mechanism by quantifying the dynamic strain tensor at seismogenic depths. We focus on the dynamic strains at the hypocenter of the Ms = 5.4 Little Skull Mountain (LSM), Nevada, earthquake. This event is noteworthy because it is the largest earthquake demonstrably triggered at remote distances (∼280 km) by the Ms = 7.4 Landers, California, earthquake and because of its ambiguous association with magmatic activity. Our analysis shows that, if dynamic strains initiate remote triggering, the orientation and modes of faulting most favorable for being triggered by a given strain transient change with depth. The geometry of the most probable LSM fault plane was favorably oriented with respect to the geometry of the dynamic strain tensor. We estimate that the magnitude of the peak dynamic strains at the hypocentral depth of the LSM earthquake were ∼4 μstrain (∼.2 MPa) which are ∼50% smaller than those estimated from velocity seismograms recorded at the surface. We suggest that these strains are too small to cause Mohr-Coulomb style failure unless the fault was prestrained to near failure levels, the fault was exceptionally weak, and/or the dynamic strains trigger other processes that lead to failure.

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