Surface faulting earthquake clustering controlled by fault and shear-zone interactions.
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Surface faulting earthquakes are known to cluster in time from historical and palaeoseismic studies, but the mechanism(s) responsible for clustering, such as fault interaction, strain-storage, and evolving dynamic topography, are poorly quantified, and hence not well understood. We present a quantified replication of observed earthquake clustering in central Italy. Six active normal faults are studied using 36Cl cosmogenic dating, revealing out-of-phase periods of high or low surface slip-rate on neighboring structures that we interpret as earthquake clusters and anticlusters. Our calculations link stress transfer caused by slip averaged over clusters and anti-clusters on coupled fault/shear-zone structures to viscous flow laws. We show that (1) differential stress fluctuates during fault/shear-zone interactions, and (2) these fluctuations are of sufficient magnitude to produce changes in strain-rate on viscous shear zones that explain slip-rate changes on their overlying brittle faults. These results suggest that fault/shear-zone interactions are a plausible explanation for clustering, opening the path towards process-led seismic hazard assessments.
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