Gravitational body forces focus North American intraplate earthquakes

Nature Communications
By: , and 



Earthquakes far from tectonic plate boundaries generally exploit ancient faults, but not all intraplate faults are equally active. The North American Great Plains exemplify such intraplate earthquake localization, with both natural and induced seismicity generally clustered in discrete zones. Here we use seismic velocity, gravity and topography to generate a 3D lithospheric density model of the region; subsequent finite-element modelling shows that seismicity focuses in regions of high-gravity-derived deviatoric stress. Furthermore, predicted principal stress directions generally align with those observed independently in earthquake moment tensors and borehole breakouts. Body forces therefore appear to control the state of stress and thus the location and style of intraplate earthquakes in the central United States with no influence from mantle convection or crustal weakness necessary. These results show that mapping where gravitational body forces encourage seismicity is crucial to understanding and appraising intraplate seismic hazard.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Gravitational body forces focus North American intraplate earthquakes
Series title Nature Communications
DOI 10.1038/ncomms14314
Volume 8
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center
Description Article 14314: 9 p.
Country United States
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