Any analysis of seismicity associated with the filling of large reservoirs requires an evaluation of the natural tectonic state in order to determine whether impoundment is the basic source, a mechanically unrelated companion feature, or a triggering stimulus of the observed seismicity. Several arguments indicate that the associated seismicity is usually a triggered effect. Among the elements of tectonic state considered here (existing fractures, accumulated elastic strain, and deformational style), deformational style is especially critical in forecasting the occurrence of impoundment-induced seismicity. The observational evidence indicates that seismicity associated with impounding generally occurs in areas that combine steeply dipping faults, relatively high strain rates, and either extensional or horizontal-shear strain. Simple physical arguments suggest: (1) that increased fluid pressures resulting from increased reservoir head should enhance the likelihood of seismic activity, whatever the tectonic environment; (2) that stress changes resulting from surface loading may increase the likelihood of crustal failure in areas of normal and transcurrent faulting, whereas they generally inhibit failure in areas of thrust faulting. Comparisons with other earthquake-producing artificial and natural processes (underground explosions, fluid injection, underground mining, fluid extraction, volcanic emissions) indicate that reservoir loading may similarly modify the natural tectonic state. Subsurface loading resulting from fluid extraction may be a particularly close analogue of reservoir loading; "seismotectonic" events associated with fluid extraction have been recognized in both seismically active and otherwise aseismic regions. Because the historic record of seismicity and surface faulting commonly is short in comparison with recurrence intervals of earthquake and fault-slip events, tectonic state is most reliably appraised through combined studies of historic seismicity and faulting, instrumentally measured strain, and the geological record, especially that of the Quaternary. Experience in California and elsewhere demonstrates that the character and activity of recognized faults can be assessed by means of: instrumental earthquake investigations, repeated geodetic measurements, written history, archeological studies, fault topography, and local stratigraphic relations. Where faults are less easily distinguished, appraisals of tectonic state may be based on both the regional seismicity and the regional history of vertical movement as shown by: repeated levelling and sea-level measurements, written history, archeologic investigations, terrace and shoreline deformation, and denudation and sedimentation studies. ?? 1980.
Additional publication details
Tectonic state: its significance and characterization in the assessment of seismic effects associated with reservoir impounding