Abstract

The magnitude mb = 6.0 Saguenay earthquake of 25 November 1988 in Quebec, Canada, was one of the largest to have occurred in eastern North America during the past half-century. Recorded high-frequency ground motions exceeded anticipated values for an event of its size by a factor of 10 on both the regional network and strong-motion instruments. Two proposed explanations for the discrepancy are (1) that the source was a rare “high stress drop” event and (2) that it was an asymmetrical “fractional stress drop” rupture (involving only normal effective stresses). In this article, detailed fault-slip models are derived to fit characteristics of strong-motion displacement, velocity, and acceleration data. The results establish that the effective rupture stress was normal (less than 100 bars), that the fault rupture was highly asymmetrical with respect to the point of rupture initiation, and that the average slip time for points within the rupture area (approx. 0.2 sec) was considerably less than that associated with the standard Brune (1970) source spectral model. The rupture area developed in a number of episodes, each widening or lengthening the previously ruptured area, which may explain the short average slip time. The results indicate that the widely used assumption in hazard analyses that earthquake spectra are adequately represented by the standard Brune (1970) complete stress drop model may be seriously unreliable for prediction of strong ground motion in eastern North America.

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