Uniform California earthquake rupture forecast, version 3 (UCERF3): the time-independent model

Open-File Report 2013-1165

CGS Special Report 228, Southern California Earthquake Center Publication 1792
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DOI: 10.3133/ofr20131165



In this report we present the time-independent component of the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, Version 3 (UCERF3), which provides authoritative estimates of the magnitude, location, and time-averaged frequency of potentially damaging earthquakes in California. The primary achievements have been to relax fault segmentation assumptions and to include multifault ruptures, both limitations of the previous model (UCERF2). The rates of all earthquakes are solved for simultaneously, and from a broader range of data, using a system-level "grand inversion" that is both conceptually simple and extensible. The inverse problem is large and underdetermined, so a range of models is sampled using an efficient simulated annealing algorithm. The approach is more derivative than prescriptive (for example, magnitude-frequency distributions are no longer assumed), so new analysis tools were developed for exploring solutions. Epistemic uncertainties were also accounted for using 1,440 alternative logic tree branches, necessitating access to supercomputers. The most influential uncertainties include alternative deformation models (fault slip rates), a new smoothed seismicity algorithm, alternative values for the total rate of M≥5 events, and different scaling relationships, virtually all of which are new. As a notable first, three deformation models are based on kinematically consistent inversions of geodetic and geologic data, also providing slip-rate constraints on faults previously excluded because of lack of geologic data. The grand inversion constitutes a system-level framework for testing hypotheses and balancing the influence of different experts. For example, we demonstrate serious challenges with the Gutenberg-Richter hypothesis for individual faults. UCERF3 is still an approximation of the system, however, and the range of models is limited (for example, constrained to stay close to UCERF2). Nevertheless, UCERF3 removes the apparent UCERF2 overprediction of M6.5–7 earthquake rates and also includes types of multifault ruptures seen in nature. Although UCERF3 fits the data better than UCERF2 overall, there may be areas that warrant further site-specific investigation. Supporting products may be of general interest, and we list key assumptions and avenues for future model improvements.

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USGS Numbered Series
Uniform California earthquake rupture forecast, version 3 (UCERF3): the time-independent model
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Earthquake Science Center
Report: xvi, 97 p.; Appendixes A-T; Table B1; Earthquake Catalog; 3 Supplemental Materials; Fault Section Data; Pre-inversion Analysis
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United States
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