Abstract

The largest historical earthquake in South Carolina, and in the southeastern US, occurred in the Coastal Plain province, probably northwest of Charleston, in 1886. Locations for aftershocks associated with this earthquake, estimated using intensities based on newspaper accounts, defined a northwest trending zone about 250 km long that was at least 100 km wide in the Coastal Plain but widened to a northeast trending zone in the Piedmont. The subsequent historical and instrumentally recorded seismicity in South Carolina images the 1886 aftershock zone. Except for a few scattered earthquakes and a swarm of shallow (≤ 4 km deep), small (ML ≤ 2.5), primarily reverse faulting earthquakes that occurred along the flanks of a granite pluton about 60 km northwest of Columbia, the seismicity in the Piedmont province has been associated with water level changes in reservoirs. Reservoir induced seismicity (RIS) is shallow (≤ 6 km deep), primarily strike-slip or thrust faulting corresponding to an inferred maximum horizontal compressive stress oriented approximately N 60° E. Instrumentally recorded seismicity in the Coastal Plain province occurs in 3 seismic zones or clusters: Middleton Place-Summerville (MPSSZ), Adams Run (ARC), and Bowman (BSZ). Approximately 68% of the Coastal Plain earthquakes occur in the MPSSZ, a north trending zone about 22 km long and 12 km wide, lying about 20 km northwest of Charleston. The hypocenters of MPSSZ earthquakes range in depth from near the surface to almost 12 km. Thrust, strike-slip, and some normal faulting are indicated by the fault plane solutions for Coastal Plain earthquakes. The maximum horizontal compressive stress, inferred from the P-axes of the fault plane solutions, is oriented NE-SW in the shallow crust (< 9 km deep) but appears to be diffusely E-W between 9 to 12 km deep. Although there is localized variability, the current seismicity and associated faulting in South Carolina probably represent a regional response to the NE-SW maximum horizontal compressive stress prevalent throughout eastern North America.

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