A cluster of exceptionally large earthquakes in the interior of Asia occurred from 1905 to 1967: the 1905 M7.9 Tsetserleg and M8.4 Bolnai earthquakes, the 1931 M8.0 Fu Yun earthquake, the 1957 M8.1 Gobi-Altai earthquake, and the 1967 M7.1 Mogod earthquake (sequence). Each of the larger (M ??? 8) earthquakes involved strike-slip faulting averaging more than 5 m and rupture lengths of several hundred kilometers. Available geologic data indicate that recurrence intervals on the major source faults are several thousands of years and distances of about 400 km separate the respective rupture areas. We propose that the occurrences of these and many smaller earthquakes are related and controlled to a large extent by stress changes generated by the compounded static deformation of the preceding earthquakes and subsequent viscoelastic relaxation of the lower crust and upper mantle beneath Mongolia. We employ a spherically layered viscoelastic model constrained by the 1994-2002 GPS velocity field in western Mongolia [Vergnolle et al., 2003]. Using the succession of twentieth century earthquakes as sources of deformation, we then analyze the time-dependent change in Coulomb failure stress (????f). At remote interaction distances, static ????f values are small. However, modeled postseismic stress changes typically accumulate to several tenths of a bar over time intervals of decades. Almost all significant twentieth century regional earthquakes (M ??? 6) with well-constrained fault geometry lie in positive ????f lobes of magnitude about +0.5 bar. Our results suggest that significant stress transfer is possible among continental faults separated by hundreds of kilometers and on timescales of decades. Copyright 2003 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Fault interaction and stress triggering of twentieth century earthquakes in Mongolia