Close examination of the P waves from earthquakes ranging in size across several orders of magnitude shows that the shape of the initiation of the velocity waveforms is independent of the magnitude of the earthquake. A model in which earthquakes of all sizes have similar rupture initiation can explain the data. This suggests that it is difficult to estimate the eventual size of an earthquake from the initial portion of the waveform. Previously reported curvature seen in the beginning of some velocity waveforms can be largely explained as the effect of anelastic attenuation; thus there is little evidence for a departure from models of simple rupture initiation that grow dynamically from a small region. The results of this study indicate that any "precursory" radiation at seismic frequencies must emanate from a source region no larger than the equivalent of a M0.5 event (i.e. a characteristic length of ???10 m). The size of the nucleation region for magnitude 0 to 5 earthquakes thus is not resolvable with the standard seismic instrumentation deployed in California. Copyright 1996 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Initial rupture of earthquakes in the 1995 Ridgecrest, California sequence