Abstract

For a decade, the U.S. Geological Survey has used the Parkfield Earthquake Prediction Experiment scenario document to estimate the probability that earthquakes observed on the San Andreas fault near Parkfield will turn out to be foreshocks followed by the expected magnitude 6 mainshocks. During this time, we have learned much about the seismogenic process at Parkfield, about the long-term probability of the Parkfield mainshock, and about the estimation of these types of probabilities. The probabilities for potential foreshocks at Parkfield are reexamined and revised in light of these advances. As part of this process, we have confirmed both the rate of foreshocks before strike-slip earthquakes in the San Andreas physiographic province and the uniform distribution of foreshocks with magnitude proposed by earlier studies. Compared to the earlier assessment, these new estimates of the long-term probability of the Parkfield mainshock are lower, our estimate of the rate of background seismicity is higher, and we find that the assumption that foreshocks at Parkfield occur in a unique way is not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. While the exact numbers vary depending on the assumptions that are made, the new alert probabilities are lower than previously estimated. Considering the various assumptions and the statistical uncertainties in the input parameters, we also compute a plausible range for the probabilities. The range is large, partly due to the extra knowledge that exists for the Parkfield segment, making us question the usefulness of these numbers.

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