Do weak global stresses synchronize earthquakes?

R. Bendick, R. Bilham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Insofar as slip in an earthquake is related to the strain accumulated near a fault since a previous earthquake, and this process repeats many times, the earthquake cycle approximates an autonomous oscillator. Its asymmetric slow accumulation of strain and rapid release is quite unlike the harmonic motion of a pendulum and need not be time predictable, but still resembles a class of repeating systems known as integrate-and-fire oscillators, whose behavior has been shown to demonstrate a remarkable ability to synchronize to either external or self-organized forcing. Given sufficient time and even very weak physical coupling, the phases of sets of such oscillators, with similar though not necessarily identical period, approach each other. Topological and time series analyses presented here demonstrate that earthquakes worldwide show evidence of such synchronization. Though numerous studies demonstrate that the composite temporal distribution of major earthquakes in the instrumental record is indistinguishable from random, the additional consideration of event renewal interval serves to identify earthquake groupings suggestive of synchronization that are absent in synthetic catalogs. We envisage the weak forces responsible for clustering originate from lithospheric strain induced by seismicity itself, by finite strains over teleseismic distances, or by other sources of lithospheric loading such as Earth's variable rotation. For example, quasi-periodic maxima in rotational deceleration are accompanied by increased global seismicity at multidecadal intervals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8320-8327
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume44
Issue number16
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 28 2017

Keywords

  • Earth rotation
  • clustering
  • global earthquakes
  • synchronization

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