ABSTRACT

The July 2019 Ridgecrest, California, earthquake sequence involved two large events—the M 6.4 foreshock and the M 7.1 mainshock that ruptured a system of intersecting strike‐slip faults. We present analysis of space geodetic observations including Synthetic Aperture Radar and Global Navigation Satellite System data, geological field mapping, and seismicity to constrain the subsurface rupture geometry and slip distribution. The data render a complex pattern of faulting with a number of subparallel as well as cross‐cutting fault strands that exhibit variations in both strike and dip angles, including a “flower structure” formed by shallow splay faults. Slip inversions are performed using both homogeneous and layered elastic half‐space models informed by the local seismic tomography data. The inferred slip distribution suggests a moderate amount of the shallow coseismic slip deficit. The peak moment release occurred in the depth interval of 3–4 km, consistent with results from previous studies of major strike‐slip earthquakes, and the depth distribution of seismicity in California. We use the derived slip models to investigate stress transfer and possible triggering relationships between the M 7.1 mainshock and the M 6.4 foreshock, as well as other moderate events that occurred in the vicinity of the M 7.1 hypocenter. Triggering is discouraged for the average strike of the M 7.1 rupture (320°) but encouraged for the initial orientation of the mainshock rupture suggested by the first‐motion data (340°). This lends support to a scenario according to which the earthquake rupture nucleated on a small fault that was more optimally oriented with respect to the regional stress and subsequently propagated along the less‐favorably oriented pre‐existing faults, possibly facilitated by dynamic weakening. The nucleation site of the mainshock experienced positive dynamic Coulomb stress changes that are much larger than the static stress changes, yet the former failed to initiate rupture.

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