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Earthquake Data
1.1 Introduction
The self-similarity of earthquakes gives rise to a
scaling relationship between the earthquake
magnitude and the frequency of occurrence,
which can be represented by the Gutenberg-
Richter law
The b-value is broadly equal to 1 globally, and is
a condition of the fractal relationship of
earthquakes. ata showing the cumulative
number of earthquakes greater than magnitude
!." are plotted for both surface-wave magnitude
and moment magnitude M
in the appendi#.
1.2 Surface-wave magnitude plot
The relationship on the semi-log plot is broadly
linear. $owever, there are large deviations from
the linear trend at high magnitudes, particularly
above %.&. ' single line of best fit b was plotted
(dashed line) and found to have a b-value of 1.*.
The best fit is actually achieved by using two
lines, b
and b
, which have values of 1." and 1.&
receptively. The line b
follows self-similarity, b-
value = 1, until a magnitude of around M
+ !.,.
1.3 Moment-magnitude plot
The relationship shows a much better linear trend,
with only slight deviation from a b-value equal to
one towards higher magnitudes. ' best fit line b
was plotted (dashed line) and found to have a b-
value of 1.-. .imilarly the best fit is achieved by
using two lines , b
and b
, which have values of
1." and 1.* receptively. The line b
follows self-
similarity, b-value = 1, until a magnitude of
around M
+ !.,.
2. Discussion
2.1 Self-Similarity
The breakdown of self-similarity seen in both
magnitude frequency plots can be attributed to a
number of factors. /irstly, the surface-wave
magnitude scale M
is most efficient at recording
shallow teleseismic events (/owler -"",), and
although corrections can be applied to resolve
deeper earthquakes, the M
scale requires strong
surface-waves, which are seldom produced from
deep earthquakes (0ay 1 2allace 1&&,).
Therefore large earthquakes that occur at
great depths may be missed from the seismic
record altogether causing a breakdown in
'dditionally, for earthquakes above a certain
si3e, the frequency at which we measure
magnitude M will be on the w
decay slope,
and thus all earthquakes above this si3e will
have a constant magnitude M (0ay 1 2allace
1&&,). This is known as magnitude
saturation, and is particularly prevalent in the
and the M
scales. /or e#ample, M
to saturate at around M
4 !.-, and is fully
saturated by appro#imately M
4 %.". The
saturation of the M
scale towards larger
magnitude earthquakes may cause the self-
similarity to break down at higher
The M
scale doesn5t show as marked break
down in self-similarity, and the b-value is
broadly similar. 6nlike the M
scale, the M
scale does not e#perience saturation at higher
magnitudes, since it is derived from the
relationship between the moment and energy
of an earthquake. $ence, it is likely to give a
better representation of earthquakes at higher
magnitudes. 7n addition, since the moment of
an earthquake is calculated using only the
low frequency spectra of surface-waves, the
corner frequencies are easy to determine even
from earthquakes at large depths.
'lthough the M
data shows a more linear fit,
i.e. the b-value stays closer to 1, there is still
a slight breakdown in the fractal relationship
at high magnitudes. .ince M
scales are not
affected by saturation and are not likely to
miss deep earthquakes, the failure in the self-
similarity may be e#plained by smaller
earthquakes dominating most global
catalogues, and therefore making the
frequency-si3e distributions biased by small
earthquakes (8acheo 1 .chol3 1&&,).
'nother possibility is that self-similarity
breaks down because of changing fault
parameters in high order magnitude events.
7nvestigating the relationship between earthquake magnitude and frequency of occurrence
9$'R07: ;:<=7:
Department of art! Science" #niver$ity of Dur!am 2%13
Relationships between faulting parameters and
the actual rupture process provide scaling
relations that govern the fractal behaviour of
earthquakes. 7f the faulting parameters or rupture
process change in high magnitude earthquakes,
then conditions will not be adequate for self-
8aceho 1 .chol3 (1&&,), who corrected for the b-
value biased discussed above, suggest that a
break in self-similarity occurs at a point where
the dimension of the event equals the down-dip
width of the seismogenic layer. /or smaller
magnitude earthquakes, rupture length and
rupture width scale in the same manner,
independent of faulting mechanism. $owever for
large earthquakes, with strike-slip mechanisms,
the self-similarity breaks down due to the
limitation on rupture width caused by the
thickness of the seismogenic layer (.tock 1
.mith -""").
The breakdown in b-value observed at small
magnitudes may also be caused by changes in
scaling relationships. /igure * below shows the
worldwide frequency of earthquakes from 1&&" >
-"1- (6.G. -"1*). There is an even larger
change in the b-value for small magnitude events,
indicating a much more prominent break down in
Fig.2 ' semi-log plot showing the cumulative number of
different magnitude earthquakes worldwide from 1&&" >
-"1-. <ote the very marked deviation from earthquake self-
similarity at low magnitudes. (:ngdahl 1 ?illasenor -""-).
The observed frequency magnitude relation
departs from self-similarity with magnitudes
smaller than about @. The fractal relationship of
larger earthquakes assume a fi#ed value of critical
weakening slip. This is where the slip-weakening
failure criterion, given by the critical slip 3one
and the cohesive 3one, are roughly
comparable to the width of the fault 3one
('ki 1&%!). 7t is estimated that there is a
minimum magnitude at which the critical
weakening slip is fi#ed (ietrich 1&!&).
:arthquakes of smaller magnitudes are
possible, but only with a smaller value of
critical slip, which causes the self-similarity
assumed for larger earthquakes to break
'dditionally, it is well known that self-
similarity at lower magnitudes break down
because earthquakes are too small to be
detected by current seismometer installations.
Therefore, it is assumed that there are a large
number of small magnitude earthquakes
missing from the seismic catalogue.
$owever, some micro-seismicity studies
using bore holes have shown that local
magnitudes M
retain self-similarity down to
appro#imately M
= %.' ('bercrombie 1&&A)
and suggest that changes in self-similarity for
low magnitude earthquakes result from
catalogue incompleteness alone, and not due
to changing source parameters as discussed
The b-value of the M
plot is higher than
e#pected because, as discussed previously,
the self-similarity of the M
scale breaks
down at high magnitudes due to missing
events from the catalogue and magnitude
saturation. .imilarly, the b-value of the M
plot is also larger than e#pected. This is likely
to be caused by changing fault parameters at
larger magnitudes (.tock 1 .mith -""").
'dditionally, the best fits achieved by - lines,
and b
, b
= 1." and b
= 1.& for the M
scale and b
= 1." and b
= 1.* for the M
scale, broadly agree with results from 8acheo
and .chol3 (1&&-) along with numerical
predictions made by Rundle (1&%&),
suggesting that different fault parameters,
brought about by the limitation on rupture
width in large strike-slip mechanisms,
present a slightly higher b-value and cause a
break down of self-similarity for high
magnitude earthquakes.
Semi-log plot oI the cumulative number oI diIIerent surIace-wave
magnitude earthquakes above magnitude 7.0. Note the marked change Irom
earthquake selI-similarity, b-value 1, Ior large magnitude earthquakes.
Semi-log plot oI the cumulative number oI diIIerent moment-magnitude
earthquakes above magnitude 7.0. Less oI a breakdown oI selI-similarity,
but still a deviation Irom b-value 1.
B 1.2
B 1.3
Earthquake data taken from USGS National Earthquake Information Centre (Engdahl & Villasenor 2002)
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