Implications of Receiver Plane Uncertainty for the Static Stress Triggering Hypothesis

C. Hanagan, R. A. Bennett, L. Chiaraluce, A. Hughes, M. Cocco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Static stress transfer from major earthquakes is commonly invoked as the primary mechanism for triggering aftershocks, but evaluating this mechanism depends on aftershock rupture plane orientations and hypocenter locations, which are often subject to significant observational uncertainty. We evaluate static stress change for an unusually large data set comprising hundreds to thousands of aftershocks following the 1997 Umbria-Marche, 2009 L’Aquila (Italy), and 2019 Ridgecrest (California) earthquake sequences. We compare failure stress resolved on aftershock focal mechanism planes and planes that are optimally oriented (OOPs) in the regional and earthquake perturbed stress field. Like previous studies, we find that failure stress resolved on OOPs overpredicts the percentage (>70%) of triggered aftershocks relative to that predicted from observed aftershock rupture planes (∼50%–65%) from focal mechanisms solutions, independent of how nodal plane ambiguity is resolved. Further, observed aftershock nodal planes appear statistically different from OOPs. Observed rupture planes, at least for larger magnitude events (M > 3), appear to align more closely with pre-existing tectonic structures. The inferred observational uncertainty associated with nodal plane ambiguity, plane orientation, and, to second order, hypocentral location yields a broad range of aftershocks potentially triggered by static stress changes, ranging from slightly better than random chance to nearly any aftershock promoted, particularly those further than 5 km from the causative fault. Dynamic stresses, afterslip, pore fluids, and other sources of unresolved small-scale heterogeneity in the post-mainshock stress field may also contribute appreciably to aftershock occurrence closer to the mainshock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JB023589
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Coulomb failure
  • L'Aquila
  • Ridgecrest
  • Umbria-Marche
  • aftershocks
  • static stress triggering uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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