Microseismicity and b-values of the Wabash Valley Intraplate Seismic Zone from short-period phased arrays

Monday, 15 December 2014
James Andrew Conder1, Kurtis Milliron1 and Lupei Zhu2, (1)Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Geology, Carbondale, IL, United States, (2)Saint Louis University Main Campus, Saint Louis, MO, United States
Two phased arrays of 9 short-period stations each are currently recording in the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone (WVSZ) as part of the EarthScope Wabash FlexArray project. The phased arrays aim to address the level of microseismicity produced by the intraplate seismic zone. Although seismic hazard maps of the U.S. Midwest are dominated by the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ), the WVSZ has released 40% more seismic energy than the NMSZ over the last half century with four events larger than M5 and only one in the NMSZ reaching that threshold. A comparison of event frequency statistics suggests two markedly different systems. The NMSZ exhibits b-values near unity, but the WVSZ exhibits much smaller b-values in the 0.6-0.7 range. Deviations less than unity may be controlled through crack geometry and/or greater shear stresses possibly indicating a time-dependent, or migrating, behavior in mid-continent. Alternatively, it may be the case that the low b-values are simply a reflection of less complete catalog than the NMSZ. A previous short-term microseismicity study of the WVSZ shows a dearth of non-anthropogenic sources in the Wabash. The phased array near the central portion of the WVSZ largely confirms the previously noted lack of substantial natural seismicity along the central portion of the fault system and the associated low b-values. However, the phased array near the southern termination of the fault system shows significantly more activity. Importantly, the largest events from the Wabash, including the 2008 M5.4 Mt. Carmel and the 1968 M5.5 Harrisburg events occurred near the northern and southern ends of the fault system. The phased arrays seem to indicate different portions of the fault system yielding different levels of activity. As the catalogs become more complete, there is a preliminary suggestion that the anomalously low b-values for the Wabash do not denote a system under significantly larger stresses, but rather a conflation of regions along-strike of the fault system with differing a-values. A more thorough accounting of seismic activity in the Wabash from multiple phased arrays is promising a better understanding the relative hazard posed by the WVSZ compared to the NMSZ,which may ultimately have a shorter recurrence time between large events than NMSZ and would therefore prove to have the greater associated hazard.