Systematic detection of seismic activity before recent large earthquakes in China

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Zhigang Peng1, Baoshan Wang2, Xiang Ruan3, Xiaofeng Meng1, Tu Hongwei4, Feng Long3 and Jinrong Su3, (1)Georgia Tech, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Atlanta, GA, United States, (2)IGP Institute of Geophysics, China Earthquake Administration, Beijing, China, (3)Sichuan Seismological Bureau, Chengdu, China, (4)Earthquake Administration of Qinghai Province, Xining, China
Sometimes large shallow earthquakes are preceded by increased local seismic activity, known as “foreshocks”. However, the exact relationship between foreshocks and mainshock nucleation is still in debate. Several studies have found accelerating or migrating foreshock activity right before recent large earthquakes along major plate boundary faults, indicating that foreshocks are likely driven by slow-slip events. However, it is still not
clear whether similar features could be observed for earthquakes that occur away from plate-boundary regions.
Here we conduct a systematic detection of possible foreshock activity around the times of 6 recent large earthquakes in China.
The candidate events include the 2008 Ms7.3 Yutian, Ms8.0 Wenchuan, the 2010 Ms7.0 Yushu,
the 2013 Ms7.0 Lushan, the 2014 Ms7.3 Yutian, and the 2014 Ms6.5 Zhaotong earthquakes. Among them, the 2010 Yushu and 2014 Yutian mainshocks had clear evidence of M4-5 immediate foreshocks listed in regional earthquake catalogs, while the rest
did not. In each case, we use waveforms of local earthquakes listed in the catalog as templates and scan through continuous waveforms recorded by both permanent and temporary seismic stations around the epicentral region of each mainshock. Our waveform matching method can detect at least a few times more events than listed in the catalog. Our initial results show a wide range of behaviors. For the 2010 Yushu and 2014 Yutian cases, the M4-5 foreshocks were followed by many smaller-size events that could be considered as their aftershocks. For the Wenchuan case, we did not observe any obvious foreshock in the immediate vicinity of the epicenter. However, we found one swarm sequence that shows systematic migration a few months before the Wenchuan mainshock. Our next step is to relocate these newly detected events to search for spatio-temporal evolutions before each mainshock, as well
as performing Epidemic Type Aftershock Sequence (ETAS) modeling to examine whether slow-slip transients may drive these foreshocks. By using these techniques, we hope to obtain a more complete
picture on evolutions of seismic activities around the epicenters of recent large intra-plate earthquakes in China.