Source characterization of the San Juan (Argentina) crustal earthquakes of 15 January 1944 (Mw 7.0) and 11 June 1952 (Mw 6.8)

Patricia Alvarado, Susan Beck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


The backarc region of the Andes in the vicinity of San Juan, Argentina, is one of the most seismically active fold and thrust belt regions in the world. Four large damaging crustal earthquakes (1894, 1944, 1952 and 1977) occurred during the last 111 yr between 30°S and 32°S. We have determined the source parameters for two of these important earthquakes, the 1944 and 1952 events, using historic seismic records. The earthquake on 15 January 1944 had an epicentral location between the eastern thin-skinned Precordillera fold and thrust belt and the thick-skinned Sierras Pampeanas basement-cored uplifts. The 11 June 1952 earthquake occurred in the eastern Precordillera about 35 km southwest of the 1944 epicenter location. The P-wave first motions, long-period teleseismic P waveform modeling, and SV/SH amplitude ratio indicate a thrust focal mechanism for the 1944 event (strike N45°E, dip 35° to the southeast, and rake 110deg;) with M0 3.01 × 10 19N m and Mw = 7.0. The 1952 earthquake focal mechanism solution indicates a more oblique mechanism (strike N40°E, dip 75° to the southeast, and rake 30°) with M0 = 2.20 × 1019 N m and Mw = 6.8. Both the 1944 and 1952 earthquakes have focal depths <12 km and simple source time functions with one pulse of moment release with durations of 10 s and 8 s, respectively. Both the shallow focal depth and the east-dipping fault plane in the focal mechanism solution for the 1944 earthquake are consistent with the parameters observed along the La Laja fault in the frontal part of the eastern Precordillera that generated a 6-8-km-long coseismic surface rupture. The 1952 earthquake focal mechanism solution and its shallow source depth suggest it is related to faults in the eastern Precordillera, but a particular fault association is difficult. The 1944 earthquake was clearly the most destructive event because its proximity to the most populated area in San Juan, large size and shallow focal depth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-631
Number of pages17
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 30 2006


  • Andean backarc crust
  • Historical earthquake source
  • Precordillera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Source characterization of the San Juan (Argentina) crustal earthquakes of 15 January 1944 (Mw 7.0) and 11 June 1952 (Mw 6.8)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this