We study variations in earthquake stress drop with respect to depth, faulting regime, creeping versus locked fault behavior, and wall-rock geology. We use the P-wave displacement spectra from borehole seismic recordings of M 1.0–4.2 earthquakes in the east San Francisco Bay to estimate stress drop using a stack-and-invert empirical Green’s function method. The median stress drop is 8.7 MPa, and most stress drops are in the range between 0.4 and 130 MPa. An apparent correlation between stress drop and magnitude is entirely an artifact of the limited frequency band of 4–55 Hz. There is a trend of increasing stress drop with depth, with a median stress drop of ∼5 MPa for 1–7 km depth, ∼10 MPa for 7–13 km depth, and ∼50 MPa deeper than 13 km. We use S/P amplitude ratios measured from the borehole records to better constrain the first-motion focal mechanisms. High stress drops are observed for a deep cluster of thrust-faulting earthquakes. The correlation of stress drops with depth and faulting regime implies that stress drop is related to the applied shear stress. We compare the spatial distribution of stress drops on the Hayward fault to a model of creeping versus locked behavior of the fault and find that high stress drops are concentrated around the major locked patch near Oakland. This also suggests a connection between stress drop and applied shear stress, as the locked patch may experience higher applied shear stress as a result of the difference in cumulative slip or the presence of higher-strength material. The stress drops do not directly correlate with the strength of the proposed wall-rock geology at depth, suggesting that the relationship between fault strength and the strength of the wall rock is complex.

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