The SCEC/USGS dynamic earthquake rupture code verification exercise

Seismological Research Letters
By: , and 



Numerical simulations of earthquake rupture dynamics are now common, yet it has been difficult to test the validity of these simulations because there have been few field observations and no analytic solutions with which to compare the results. This paper describes the Southern California Earthquake Center/U.S. Geological Survey (SCEC/USGS) Dynamic Earthquake Rupture Code Verification Exercise, where codes that simulate spontaneous rupture dynamics in three dimensions are evaluated and the results produced by these codes are compared using Web-based tools. This is the first time that a broad and rigorous examination of numerous spontaneous rupture codes has been performed—a significant advance in this science. The automated process developed to attain this achievement provides for a future where testing of codes is easily accomplished.

Scientists who use computer simulations to understand earthquakes utilize a range of techniques. Most of these assume that earthquakes are caused by slip at depth on faults in the Earth, but hereafter the strategies vary. Among the methods used in earthquake mechanics studies are kinematic approaches and dynamic approaches.

The kinematic approach uses a computer code that prescribes the spatial and temporal evolution of slip on the causative fault (or faults). These types of simulations are very helpful, especially since they can be used in seismic data inversions to relate the ground motions recorded in the field to slip on the fault(s) at depth. However, these kinematic solutions generally provide no insight into the physics driving the fault slip or information about why the involved fault(s) slipped that much (or that little). In other words, these kinematic solutions may lack information about the physical dynamics of earthquake rupture that will be most helpful in forecasting future events.

To help address this issue, some researchers use computer codes to numerically simulate earthquakes and construct dynamic, spontaneous rupture (hereafter called “spontaneous rupture”) solutions. For these types of numerical simulations, rather than prescribing the slip function at each location on the fault(s), just the friction constitutive properties and initial stress conditions are prescribed. The subsequent stresses and fault slip spontaneously evolve over time as part of the elasto-dynamic solution. Therefore, spontaneous rupture computer simulations of earthquakes allow us to include everything that we know, or think that we know, about earthquake dynamics and to test these ideas against earthquake observations.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The SCEC/USGS dynamic earthquake rupture code verification exercise
Series title Seismological Research Letters
DOI 10.1785/gssrl.80.1.119
Volume 80
Issue 1
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher location Seismological Society of America
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Seismological Research Letters
First page 119
Last page 126
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