ABSTRACT

The static coulomb stress hypothesis is a widely known physical mechanism for earthquake triggering and thus a prime candidate for physics‐based operational earthquake forecasting (OEF). However, the forecast skill of coulomb‐based seismicity models remains controversial, especially compared with empirical statistical models. A previous evaluation by the Collaboratory for the Study of Earthquake Predictability (CSEP) concluded that a suite of coulomb‐based seismicity models were less informative than empirical models during the aftershock sequence of the 1992 Mw 7.3 Landers, California, earthquake. Recently, a new generation of coulomb‐based and coulomb/statistical hybrid models were developed that account better for uncertainties and secondary stress sources. Here, we report on the performance of this new suite of models compared with empirical epidemic‐type aftershock sequence (ETAS) models during the 2010–2012 Canterbury, New Zealand, earthquake sequence. Comprising the 2010 M 7.1 Darfield earthquake and three subsequent M5.9 shocks (including the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake), this sequence provides a wealth of data (394 M3.95 shocks). We assessed models over multiple forecast horizons (1 day, 1 month, and 1 yr, updated after M5.9 shocks). The results demonstrate substantial improvements in the coulomb‐based models. Purely physics‐based models have a performance comparable to the ETAS model, and the two coulomb/statistical hybrids perform better or similar to the corresponding statistical model. On the other hand, an ETAS model with anisotropic (fault‐based) aftershock zones is just as informative. These results provide encouraging evidence for the predictive power of coulomb‐based models. To assist with model development, we identify discrepancies between forecasts and observations.

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