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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • characteristic earthquake
  • earthquake
  • extreme events
  • Virtual California simulation
  • earthquake hazard

Index Terms

  • 0515 Computational Geophysics: Cellular automata
  • 7223 Seismology: Earthquake interaction, forecasting, and prediction
  • 7209 Seismology: Earthquake dynamics
  • 0468 Biogeosciences: Natural hazards



Earthquakes: Complexity and Extreme Events

M. R. Yoder

Department of Physics, University of California, Davis, California, USA

D. L. Turcotte

Department of Geology, University of California, Davis, California, USA

J. B. Rundle

Earthquakes are clearly complex phenomena; they are chaotic, and they are widely considered to be an example of self-organized criticality. Despite the complexity, earthquakes satisfy several scaling laws to a good approximation. The best known is Gutenberg-Richter (GR) frequency-magnitude scaling. This scaling is valid under a wide range of conditions, including global seismicity. GR scaling is important in seismic hazard assessment because it can be used to estimate the risk of large earthquakes from the rate of occurrence of small earthquakes. Also important in seismic hazard assessment is the concept of characteristic earthquakes (CEs) on mapped faults. In this paper, we address the alternative GR and CE behaviors for faults. We use the sequence of CEs that have occurred on the Parkfield segment of the San Andreas fault. We conclude that the data tend to support the CE hypothesis, but the GR hypothesis cannot be ruled out on the basis of currently available data. We also use numerical simulations to study the CE hypothesis.

Citation: Yoder, M. R., D. L. Turcotte, and J. B. Rundle (2012), Earthquakes: Complexity and extreme events, in Extreme Events and Natural Hazards: The Complexity Perspective, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 196, edited by A. S. Sharma et al. 17–26, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2011GM001071.


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