Skip to main content


Seismic quiescence precursors to two M7 earthquakes on Sakhalin Island, measured by two methods

Article metrics

  • 319 Accesses

  • 19 Citations


Two large earthquakes occurred during the last decade on Sakhalin Island, the M w 7.6 Neftegorskoe earthquake of 27 May 1995 and the M w 6.8 Uglegorskoe earthquake of 4 August 2000, in the north and south of the island, respectively. Only about five seismograph stations record earthquakes along the 1000 km, mostly strike-slip plate boundary that transects the island from north to south. In spite of that, it was possible to investigate seismicity patterns of the last two to three decades quantitatively. We found that in, and surrounding, their source volumes, both of these main shocks were preceded by periods of pronounced seismic quiescence, which lasted 2.5 ± 0.5 years. The distances to which the production of earthquakes was reduced reached several hundred kilometers. The probability that these periods of anomalously low seismicity occurred by chance is estimated to be about 1% to 2%. These conclusions were reached independently by the application of two methods, which are based on different approaches. The RTL-algorithm measures the level of seismic activity in moving time windows by counting the number of earthquakes, weighted by their size, and inversely weighted by their distance, in time and space from the point of observation. The Z-mapping approach measures the difference of the seismicity rate, within moving time windows, to the background rate by the standard deviate Z. This generates an array of comparisons that cover all of the available time and space, and that can be searched for all anomalous departures from the normal seismicity rate. The RTL-analysis was based on the original catalog with K-classes measuring the earthquake sizes; the Z-mapping was based on the catalog with Ktransformed into magnitudes. The RTL-analysis started with data from 1980, the Z-mapping technique used the data from 1974 on. In both methods, cylindrical volumes, centered at the respective epicenters, were sampled. The Z-mapping technique additionally investigated the seismicity in about 1000 volumes centered at the nodes of a randomly placed regular grid with node spacing of 20 km. The fact that the two methods yield almost identical results strongly suggests that the observed precursory quiescence anomalies are robust and real. If the seismicity on Sakhalin Island is monitored at a completeness-level an order of magnitude below the present one, then it may be possible to detect future episodes of quiescence in real time.


  1. Arabasz, W. T. and M. Wyss, Quiescence in Utah, EOS, 102, 9999, 1996a.

  2. Arabasz, W. T. and M. Wyss, Significant precursory seismic quiescences in the extensional Wasatch front region Utah, EOS, 77, F455, 1996b.

  3. Arefiev, S., E. Rogozhin, R. Tatevossian, L. Rivera, and A. Cisternas, The Neftegorsk (Sakhalin Island) 1995 earthquake: A rare interplate event, Geophys. J. Int., 143, 595–607, 2000.

  4. Bodin, P., R. Bilham, J. Behr, J. Gomberg, and K. W. Hudnut, Slip triggered on southern California faults by the 1992 Jushoa Tree, Landers and Big Bear earthquakes, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 84, 806–816, 1

  5. Chapman, M. E. and S. C. Solomon, North American-Eurasian plate boundary in northeast Asia, J. Geophys. Res., 81, 921–930, 1976.

  6. Fournier, M., L. Jolivet, P. Huchon, K. F. Sergeyev, and L. S. Oscorbin, Neogene strike-slip faulting in Sakhalin and the Japan Sea opening, J. Geophys. Res., 99, 2701–2725, 1994.

  7. Giovambattista, R. D. and Y. S. Tyupkin, The fine structure of the dynamics of seismicity before m >= 4.5 earthquakes in the area of Reggio Emilia (Northern Italy), Annali di Geofisica, 42(5), 897–909, 1999.

  8. Gomberg, J. and S. Davis, Stress/strain changes and triggered seismicity following the Mw7.3 Landers, California, earthquake, J. Geophys. Res., 101, 751–764, 1996.

  9. Habermann, R. E., Teleseismic detection in the Aleutian Island arc, J. Geophys. Res., 88, 5056–5064, 1983.

  10. Habermann, R. E., Man-made changes of Seismicity rates, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 77, 141–159, 1987.

  11. Harris, R. A. and R. W. Simpson, Changes in static stress on southern California faults after the 1992 Landers earthquake, Nature, 360, 251–254, 1992.

  12. Hill, D. P. et al., Seismicity remotely triggered by the magnitude 7.3 Landers, California, earthquake, Science, 260, 1617–1623, 1993.

  13. Hill, D. P., M. J. S. Josnston, and J. O. Langbein, Response of Long Valley caldera to the Mw=7.3 Landers, California, earthquake, J. Geophys. Res., 100, 12985–13005, 1995.

  14. Huang, Q., G. Sobolev, and T. Nagao, Characteristics of seismic quiescence and activation patterns before the M = 7.2 Kobe earthquake, January 17, 1995, Tectonophysics, 337, 99–116, 2001.

  15. Huang, Q., A. O. Oncel, and G. A. Sobolev, Precursory seismicity changes associated with the Mw=7.4 Izmit earthquake, August 17 1999, Geophys. J. Int., 151, 235–242, 2002.

  16. Katsumata, K., M. Kasahara, M. Ichiyanagi, M. Kikuchi, R.-S. Sen, C-U. Kim, A. Ivaschenko, and R. Tatevossian, The May 27, 1995 Ms = 7.6 Northern Sakhalin earthquake: An earthquake on an uncertain plate boundary, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 94, 117–130, 2004.

  17. Kisslinger, C., Seismicity patterns in the Adak seismic zone and the short-term outlook for a major earthquake, in Meeting of the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, pp. 119–134, Anchorage, Alaska, 1986.

  18. Kisslinger, C., An experiment in earthquake prediction and the 7 May 1986 Andreanof Islands earthquake, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 78, 218–229, 1988.

  19. Kisslinger, C., C. McDonald, and J. R. Bowman, Precursory time-space patterns of seismicity and their relation to fault processes in the central Aleutian Islands seismic zone, in IASPEI, 23d general assembly, pp. 32, Tokyo, Japan, 1985.

  20. Kisslinger, K. and B. Kindel, A comparison of seismicity rates near Adak island, Alaska, September 1988 through May 1990 with rates before the 1982 to 1986 apparent quiescence, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 84, 1560–1570, 1994.

  21. Matsu’ura, R. S., Precursory quiescence and recovery of aftershock activity before some large aftershocks, Bull. Earthq. Res. Inst., 61, 1–65, 1986.

  22. Mogi, K., Some features of recent Seismic activity in and near Japan (2), Activity before and after great earthquakes, Bull. Earthq. Res. Inst., Univ. of Tokyo, 47, 395–417, 1969.

  23. Molchan, G. M. and O. E. Dmitrieva, Identification of aftershocks: Review and new approaches, Computative Seismology, 24, 19–50, 1991 (in Russian).

  24. Ohtake, M., T. Matumoto, and G. V. Latham, Seismicity gap near Oaxaca, Southern Mexico, as a probable precursor to a large earthquake, Pageoph, 115, 375–385, 1977.

  25. Ohtake, M., T. Matumoto, and G. V. Latham, Evaluation of the forecast of the 1978 Oaxaca, Southern Mexico earthquake based on a precursory Seismic quiescence, in: Earthquake Prediction, Maurice Ewing Series, Amer. Geophys. Union, 4, 53–62, 1981.

  26. Reasenberg, P. A., Second-order moment of Central California Seismicity, J. Geophys. Res., 90, 5479–5495, 1985.

  27. Riznichenko, Y. V., Dimensions of the crustal earthquake focus and the seismic moment, Research in Earthquake Physics M., Nauka, 9–27, 1976 (in Russian).

  28. Saltikov, V. A. and Y. A. Kugaenko, Seismic quiescence before two strong earthqaukes 1996 on Kamchatka, Volkanologiya i Seismologiya, 1, 57–65, 2000.

  29. Scholz, C. H., L. R. Sykes, and Y P. Aggarwal, Earthquake prediction: a physical basis, Science, 181, 803–810, 1973.

  30. Seno, T., T. Sakurai, and S. Stein, Can the Okhotsk plate be discriminated from the North American plate?, J. Geophys. Res., 101, 11305–11315, 1996.

  31. Shimamoto, T., M. Watanabe, Y. Suzuki, A. Kozhurin, M. Strel’tsov, and E. Rogozhin, Surface faults and damage associated with the 1995 Neftegorsk earthquake, J. Geol. Soc. Japan, 102, 894–907, 1996 (in Japanese).

  32. Smirnov, V. B., Earthquake catalogs: Evaluation of data completeness, Volkanologiya i Seismologiya, 19, 433–446, 1998.

  33. Sobolev, G., The examples of earthquake preparation in Kamchatka and Japan, Tectonophysics, 338, 269–279, 2001.

  34. Sobolev, G. A., Fundamentals of Earthquake Prediction, 162 pp., Electromagnetic Research Center, Moscow, 1995.

  35. Sobolev, G. A. and Y S. Tyupkin, Low-seismicity precursors of large earthquakes in Kamchatka, Volcanology and Seismology, 18, 433–446, 1997.

  36. Sobolev, G. A. and Y. S. Tyupkin, Precursory phases, seismicity precursors, and earthquake prediction in Kamchatka, Volkanologiya i Seismologiya, 20, 615–627, 1999.

  37. Soloviev, S. L. and O. N. Solovieva, The relation between the energy class and magnitude of Kuril earthquakes, Fizika Zemly, 2, 13–23, 1967 (in Russian).

  38. Stein, R. S., G. C. P. King, and J. Lin, Change in failure stress on the San Andreas and surrounding faults caused by the 1992 M = 7.4 Landers earthquake, Science, 258, 1328–1332, 1992.

  39. Stuart, W. D., Strain softening prior to two-dimensional strike slip earthquakes, J. Geophys. Res., 84, 1063–1070, 1979.

  40. Utsu, T., Seismic activity in Hokkaido and its vicinity, Geophys. Bull. Hokkaido Univ., 20, 51–75, 1968 (in Japanese).

  41. Utsu, T., Seismic activity and seismic observation in Hokkaido in recent years, Report of the Coodinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction, 2, 1–2, 1970 (in Japanese).

  42. Utsu, T., Large earthquakes near Hokkaido and the expectancy of the occurrence of a large earthquakes off Nemuro, Report of the Coodinating Commitee for Earthquake Prediction, 7, 7–13, 1972 (in Japanese).

  43. Whiteside, L. and R. E. Habermann, The seismic quiescence prior to the 1978 Oaxaca, Mexico, earthquake is not a precursor to that earthquake, abstract, in IASPEI, 25th General Assembly, pp. 339, Istanbul, Turkey, 1989.

  44. Wiemer, S., A software package to analyze seismicity: ZMAP, Seismological Research Letters, 373–382, 2001.

  45. Wiemer, S. and M. Wyss, Seismic quiescence before the Landers (M= 7.5) and Big Bear (M = 6.5) 1992 earthquakes, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 84, 900–916, 1994.

  46. Wyss, M., Evaluation of Proposed Earthquake Precursors, 94 pp., Washington, 1991.

  47. Wyss, M., Nomination of precursory seismic quiescence as a significant precursor, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 149, 79–114, 1997a.

  48. Wyss, M., Second round of evaluations of proposed earthquake precursors, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 149, 3–16, 1997b.

  49. Wyss, M. and R. O. Burford, Current episodes of seismic quiescence along the San Andreas Fault between San Juan Bautista and Stone Canyon, California: Possible precursors to local moderate main shocks, U.S. Geol. Survey open-file report, 85-754, 367–426, 1985.

  50. Wyss, M. and R. O. Burford, A predicted earthquake on the San Andreas fault, California, Nature, 329, 323–325, 1987.

  51. Wyss, M. and Z. X. Fu, Precursory seismic quiescence before the January 1982 Hilea Hawaii earthquake, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 79, 756–773, 1989.

  52. Wyss, M. and R. E. Habermann, Precursory quiescence before the August 1982 Stone Canyon, San Andreas fault, earthquakes, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 126, 333–356, 1988a.

  53. Wyss, M. and R. E. Habermann, Precursory Seismic quiescence, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 126, 319–332, 1988b.

  54. Wyss, M. and A. H. Martyrosian, Seismic quiescence before the M7, 1988, Spitak earthquake, Armenia, Geophysical Journal International, 124, 329–340, 1998.

  55. Wyss, M. and S. Wiemer, Two current seismic quiescences within 40 km of Tokyo, Geophysical Journal International, 128, 459–473, 1997.

  56. Wyss, M. and S. Wiemer, How can one test the seismic gap hypothesis? The Case of repeated ruptures in the Aleutians., Pure and Applied Geophysics, 155, 259–278, 1999.

  57. Wyss, M. and S. Wiemer, Change in the probability for earthquakes in Southern California due to the Landers magnitude 7.3 earthquake, Science, 290, 1334–1338, 2000.

  58. Wyss, M., M. Westerhaus, H. Berkhemer, and R. Ates, Precursory seismic quiescence in the Mudurnu Valley, North Anatolian fault zone, Turkey, Geophysical Journal International, 123, 117–124, 1995.

  59. Wyss, M., K. Shimazaki, and T. Urabe, Quantitative mapping of a precursory quiescence to the Izu-Oshima 1990 (M6.5) earthquake, Japan, Geophysical Journal International, 127, 735–743, 1996.

  60. Wyss, M., R. Console, and M. Murru, Seismicity rate change before the Irpinia (M = 6.9) 1980 earthquake, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 87, 318–326, 1997.

  61. Wyss, M., A. Hasegawa, S. Wiemer, and N. Umino, Quantitative mapping of precursory seismic quiescence before the 1989, M7.1, off-Sanriku earthquake, Japan, Annali di Geophysica, 42, 851–869, 1999a.

  62. Wyss, M., S. Hreinsdottir, and D. A. Marriott, Southern extent of the October 1999 M7.1 Hector Mine earthquake limited by Coulomb stress changes due to the M7.3 Landers earthquake of 1992, EOS, abstract, 1999b (in press).

  63. Zanyukov, V. N., The central Sakhalin fault and its role in the tectonic evolution of the island, Dokl. Akad. Nauk SSSR, Engl. Transl., 196, 85, 1971.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Max Wyss.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wyss, M., Sobolev, G. & Clippard, J.D. Seismic quiescence precursors to two M7 earthquakes on Sakhalin Island, measured by two methods. Earth Planet Sp 56, 725–740 (2004) doi:10.1186/BF03353081

Download citation

Key words

  • Earthquake prediction
  • seismic quiescence
  • seismicity patterns