Abstract

The Ms 6.0 earthquake in Changning, Sichuan, China, on 17 June 2019 was the largest recorded earthquake in the stable Sichuan basin. It occurred in a complicated region with salt mining and shale gas production. Whether this earthquake is induced raises concerns among the public and the scientific community. Furthermore, the relation between this earthquake and nearby industrial activities has also been of great interest. To address these questions, we estimated the nonstationary background seismicity rate and inverted for spatiotemporal stress changes. The results show that the background rate dramatically increased after hydraulic fracturing (HF) and remained at a high level until the present. Starting in 2005, the study region experienced an accelerating stress increase, and the rates of cumulative modified Coulomb stress changes were approximately 0.11  MPa/yr from January 2005 to January 2015 and 0.24  MPa/yr from January 2015 to December 2018. The 2019 Changning earthquake produced a stress step of 0.32 MPa. A clear difference between seismicity induced by salt mine injection and by HF is documented. Our results suggest that the Changning sequence might have been induced by long‐term injection for salt production. Furthermore, the seismicity‐stress inversion method provides a tool for using seismicity rate changes as a stress meter to monitor human‐induced seismicity.

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