Abstract

We investigate whether assuming a fixed shallow depth in the ShakeAlert network‐based earthquake early warning system is sufficient to produce accurate ground‐motion based alerts for intraslab earthquakes. ShakeAlert currently uses a fixed focal depth of 8 km to estimate earthquake location and magnitude. This is an appropriate way to reduce computational costs without compromising alert accuracy in California, where earthquakes typically occur on shallow crustal faults. In the Pacific Northwest (PNW), however, the most common moderate‐magnitude events occur within the subducting Juan de Fuca slab at depths between ∼35 and 65 km. Using a dataset of seismic recordings from 37 Mw 4.5+ intraslab earthquakes from the PNW and Chile, we replay events through the Earthquake Point‐Source Integrated Code and eqInfo2GM algorithms to estimate source parameters and compute modified Mercalli intensity (MMI) alert threshold contours. Each event is replayed twice—once using a fixed 8 km depth and a second time using the actual catalog earthquake depth. For each depth scenario, we analyze MMI III and IV contours using various performance metrics to determine the number of correctly alerted sites and measure warning times. We determine that shallow depth replays are more likely to produce errors in location estimates of greater than 50 km if the event is located outside of a seismic network. When located within a seismic network, shallow and catalog depth replays have similar epicenter estimates. Results show that applying catalog earthquake depth does not improve the accuracy of magnitude estimates or MMI alert threshold contours, or increase warning times. We conclude that using a fixed shallow earthquake depth for intraslab earthquakes will not significantly impact alert accuracy in the PNW.

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