Parkfield, California, which experienced M 6.0 earthquakes in 1934, 1966, and 2004, is one of the few locales for which geodetic observations span multiple earthquake cycles. We undertake a comprehensive study of deformation over the most recent earthquake cycle and explore the results in the context of geodetic data collected prior to the 1966 event. Through joint inversion of the variety of Parkfield geodetic measurements (trilateration, two-color laser, and Global Positioning System), including previously unpublished two-color data, we estimate the spatial distribution of slip and slip rate along the San Andreas using a fault geometry based on precisely relocated seismicity.

Although the three most recent Parkfield earthquakes appear complementary in their along-strike distributions of slip, they do not produce uniform strain release along strike over multiple seismic cycles. Since the 1934 earthquake, more than 1 m of slip deficit has accumulated on portions of the fault that slipped in the 1966 and 2004 earthquakes, and an average of 2 m of slip deficit exists on the 33 km of the fault southeast of Gold Hill to be released in a future, perhaps larger, earthquake. It appears that the fault is capable of partially releasing stored strain in moderate earthquakes, maintaining a disequilibrium through multiple earthquake cycles. This complicates the application of simple earthquake recurrence models that assume only the strain accumulated since the most recent event is relevant to the size or timing of an upcoming earthquake. Our findings further emphasize that accumulated slip deficit is not sufficient for earthquake nucleation.

Online material: Model fault geometry, fit to the data for the inversions, and model resolution.

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