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Defining the Relationship between Seismicity and Deformation at Regional and Local Scales


Williams, Nneka Njeri Akosua (2013) Defining the Relationship between Seismicity and Deformation at Regional and Local Scales. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/CN29-YV40.


In this thesis, I use source inversion methods to improve understanding of crustal deformation along the Nyainquentanglha (NQTL) Detachment in Southern Tibet and the Piceance Basin in northwestern Colorado. Broadband station coverage in both regions is sparse, necessitating the development of innovative approaches to source inversion for the purpose of studying local earthquakes.

In an effort to study the 2002-2003 earthquake swarm and the 2008 Mw 6.3 Damxung earthquake and aftershocks that occurred in the NQTL region, we developed a single station earthquake location inversion method called the SP Envelope method, to be used with data from LHSA at Lhasa, a broadband seismometer located 75 km away. A location is calculated by first rotating the seismogram until the azimuth at which the envelope of the P-wave arrival on the T-component is smallest (its great circle path) is found. The distance at which to place the location along this azimuth is measured by calculating the S-P distance from arrivals on the seismogram. When used in conjunction with an existing waveform modeling based source inversion method called Cut and Paste (CAP), a catalog of 40 regional earthquakes was generated.

From these 40 earthquakes, a catalog of 30 earthquakes with the most certain locations was generated to study the relationship of seismicity and NQTL region faults mapped in Google Earth and in Armijo et al., 1986 and Kapp et al., 2005. Using these faults and focal mechanisms, a fault model of the NQTL Region was generated using GOCAD, a 3D modeling suite. By studying the relationship of modeled faults to mapped fault traces at the surface, the most likely fault slip plane was chosen. These fault planes were then used to calculate slip vectors and a regional bulk stress tensor, with respect to which the low-angle NQTL Detachment was found to be badly misoriented. The formation of low-angle normal faults is inconsistent with the Anderson Theory of faulting, and the presence of the NQTL Detachment in a region with such an incongruous stress field supports the notion that such faults are real.

The timing and locations of the earthquakes in this catalog with respect to an anomalous increase in the eastward component of velocity readings at the single cGPS station in Lhasa (LHAS) were analyzed to determine the relationship between plastic and brittle deformation in the region. The fact that cGPS velocities slow significantly after the 2002-2003 earthquake swarm suggests that this motion is tectonic in nature, and it has been interpreted as only the second continental slow slip event (SSE) ever to be observed. The observation of slow slip followed by an earthquake swarm within a Tibetan rift suggests that other swarms observed within similar rifts in the region are related to SSEs.

In the Piceance Basin, CAP was used to determine source mechanisms of microearthquakes triggered as a result of fracture stimulation within a tight gas reservoir. The expense of drilling monitor wells and installing borehole geophones reduces the azimuthal station coverage, thus making it difficult to determine source mechanisms of microearthquakes using more traditional methods. For high signal to noise ratio records, CAP produced results on par with those obtained in studies of regional earthquakes. This finding suggests that CAP could successfully be applied in studies of microseismicity when data quality is high.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:seismicity;crustal deformation;Tibet;microseismicity;Piceance Basin;source inversion; location inversion
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Minor Option:Geophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Wernicke, Brian P. (advisor)
  • Helmberger, Donald V. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Asimow, Paul David (chair)
  • Stock, Joann M.
  • Heaton, Thomas H.
  • Wernicke, Brian P.
  • Helmberger, Donald V.
Defense Date:14 August 2012
Non-Caltech Author Email:nneka.a.williams (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:09052012-110119932
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7197
Deposited By: Nneka Williams
Deposited On:31 Oct 2012 19:13
Last Modified:12 Nov 2021 20:27

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