In 2001, a nearly five month long sequence of shallow, mostly small magnitude earthquakes occurred beneath the city of Spokane, a city with a population of about 200,000, in the state of Washington. During most of the sequence, the earthquakes were not well located because seismic instrumentation was sparse. Despite poor-quality locations, the earthquake hypocenters were likely very shallow, because residents near the city center both heard and felt many of the earthquakes. The combination of poor earthquake locations and a lack of known surface faults with recent movement make assessing the seismic hazards related to the earthquake swarm difficult. However, the potential for destruction from a shallow moderate-sized earthquake is high, for example Christchurch New Zealand in 2011, so assessing the hazard potential of a seismic structure involved in the Spokane earthquake sequence is important. Using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data from the European Space Agency ERS2 and ENVISAT satellites and the Canadian Space Agency RADARSAT-1, satellite we are able to show that slip on a shallow previously unknown thrust fault, which we name the Spokane Fault, is the source of the earthquake sequence. The part of the Spokane Fault that slipped during the 2001 earthquake sequence underlies the north part of the city, and slip on the fault was concentrated between ~0.3 and 2 km depth. Projecting the buried fault plane to the surface gives a possible surface trace for the Spokane Fault that strikes northeast from the city center into north Spokane.
Additional publication details
InSAR Evidence for an active shallow thrust fault beneath the city of Spokane Washington, USA