Evidence for fluid-triggered slip in the 2009 Mount Rainier, Washington earthquake swarm

Geophysical Research Letters
By: , and 



A vigorous swarm of over 1000 small, shallow earthquakes occurred 20–22 September 2009 beneath Mount Rainier, Washington, including the largest number of events ever recorded in a single day at Rainier since seismic stations were installed on the edifice in 1989. Many events were only clearly recorded on one or two stations on the edifice, or they overlapped in time with other events, and thus only ~200 were locatable by manual phase picking. To partially overcome this limitation, we applied waveform-based event detection integrated with precise double-difference relative relocation. With this procedure, detection and location goals are accomplished in tandem, using cross-correlation with continuous seismic data and waveform templates constructed from cataloged events. As a result, we obtained precise locations for 726 events, an improvement of almost a factor of 4. These event locations define a ~850 m long nearly vertical structure striking NNE, with episodic migration outward from the initial hypocenters. The activity front propagates in a manner consistent with a diffusional process. Double-couple-constrained focal mechanisms suggest dominantly near-vertical strike-slip motion on either NNW or ENE striking faults, more than 30° different than the strike of the event locations. This suggests the possibility of en echelon faulting, perhaps with a component of fault opening in a fracture-mesh-type geometry. We hypothesize that the swarm was initiated by a sudden release of high-pressure fluid into preexisting fractures, with subsequent activity triggered by diffusing fluid pressure in combination with stress transfer from the preceding events.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evidence for fluid-triggered slip in the 2009 Mount Rainier, Washington earthquake swarm
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1002/grl.50354
Volume 40
Issue 8
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 7 p.
First page 1506
Last page 1512
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Mount Rainier
Google Analytics Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details