Open Access

Seismic velocity variations on the San Andreas fault caused by the 2004 M6 Parkfield Earthquake and their implications

Earth, Planets and Space200759:BF03352018

Received: 28 February 2006

Accepted: 7 August 2006

Published: 15 March 2007


Repeated earthquakes and explosions recorded at the San Andreas fault (SAF) near Parkfield before and after the 2004 M6 Parkfield earthquake show large seismic velocity variations within an approximately 200- m-wide zone along the fault to depths of approximately 6 km. The seismic arrays were co-sited in the two experiments and located in the middle of a high-slip part of the surface rupture. Waveform cross-correlations of microearthquakes recorded in 2002 and subsequent repeated events recorded a week after the 2004 M6 mainshock show a peak of an approximately 2.5% decrease in seismic velocity at stations within the fault zone, most likely due to the co-seismic damage of fault-zone rocks during dynamic rupture of this earthquake. The damage zone is not symmetric; instead, it extends farther on the southwest side of the main fault trace. Seismic velocities within the fault zone measured for later repeated aftershocks in the following 3–4 months show an approximate 1.2% increase at seismogenic depths, indicating that the rock damaged in the mainshock recovers rigidity—or heals—through time. The healing rate was not constant but was largest in the earliest post-mainshock stage. The magnitude of fault damage and healing varies across and along the rupture zone, indicating that the greater damage was inflicted and thus greater healing is observed in regions with larger slip in the mainshock. Observations of rock damage during the mainshock and healing soon thereafter are consistent with our interpretation of the low-velocity waveguide on the SAF being at least partially softened in the 2004 M6 mainshock, with additional cumulative effects due to recurrent rupture.

Key words

Parkfield earthquake temporal velocity variation rock damage and healing