ABSTRACT

Stress drop, while difficult to measure reliably and at scale, is a key source parameter for understanding the earthquake rupture process and its relationship to strong ground motion. Here, we use a P‐wave spectral decomposition approach, designed for large and densely sampled datasets, to measure earthquake stress drop in the region surrounding the 2019 Ridgecrest, California, earthquake sequence. With more than 11,000 measurements of earthquake stress drop in the 20‐yr time period from 2000 through 2019, this dataset provides an opportunity to understand how coseismic stress changes and how other geophysical factors relate to the distribution of stress drop and its evolution in space and time. We observe a mild but persistent deviation from self‐similar scaling, with larger events having systematically higher stress drops, though this trend depends on the assumption of an omega‐square source spectral model. Earthquake stress drop increases with hypocentral depth in this study region, and the Ridgecrest aftershocks tend to have higher stress drops than the pre‐event seismicity. This is in part due to their deeper hypocenters. Coherent spatial patterns of stress drop in the aftershock sequence correlate with the slip distribution of the M 7.1 mainshock, whose northwest rupture tip terminated in a long‐lived zone of enervated stress drop. Although physical interpretation of these results is complicated by the trade‐offs between the timing, depth, and location of these earthquakes, the observations provide new insight into the physics of the earthquake source in an area of renewed seismic activity in southern California.

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