Effects of Aftershock Declustering in Risk Modeling: Case Study of a Subduction Sequence in Mexico

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Deborah L Kane and Marleen Nyst, Risk Management Solutions, Inc., Newark, CA, United States
Earthquake hazard and risk models often assume that earthquake rates can be represented by a stationary Poisson process, and that aftershocks observed in historical seismicity catalogs represent a deviation from stationarity that must be corrected before earthquake rates are estimated. Algorithms for classifying individual earthquakes as independent mainshocks or as aftershocks vary widely, and analysis of a single catalog can produce considerably different earthquake rates depending on the declustering method implemented. As these rates are propagated through hazard and risk models, the modeled results will vary due to the assumptions implied by these choices. In particular, the removal of large aftershocks following a mainshock may lead to an underestimation of the rate of damaging earthquakes and potential damage due to a large aftershock may be excluded from the model.

We present a case study based on the 1907 – 1911 sequence of nine 6.9 <= Mw <= 7.9 earthquakes along the Cocos – North American plate subduction boundary in Mexico in order to illustrate the variability in risk under various declustering approaches. Previous studies have suggested that subduction zone earthquakes in Mexico tend to occur in clusters, and this particular sequence includes events that would be labeled as aftershocks in some declustering approaches yet are large enough to produce significant damage. We model the ground motion for each event, determine damage ratios using modern exposure data, and then compare the variability in the modeled damage from using the full catalog or one of several declustered catalogs containing only “independent” events. We also consider the effects of progressive damage caused by each subsequent event and how this might increase or decrease the total losses expected from this sequence.