From temblor: “The Ridgecrest earthquakes: Torn ground, nested foreshocks, Garlock shocks, and Temblor’s forecast”


From temblor

July 9, 2019
Chris Rollins, Ph.D.; Michigan State University

By Chris Rollins, Ph.D., Michigan State University; Ross S. Stein, Ph.D., Temblor; Guoqing Lin, Ph.D., Professor of Geophysics, University of Miami; and Deborah Kilb, Ph.D., Project Scientist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego

A new image of the ground deformation, a rich and enigmatic foreshock sequence, aftershock trends we can explain, and others that are more elusive. This is also the time see how Temblor app’s hazard forecast for Ridgecrest fared.

Citation: Chris Rollins, Ross S. Stein, Guoqing Lin, and Deborah Kilb (2019), The Ridgecrest earthquakes: Torn ground, nested foreshocks, Garlock shocks, and Temblor’s forecast, Temblor,

Ground Deformation from Space

The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA JPL and Caltech just released this Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) image that shows how the fault slip in the 4 July M 6.4 and 5 July M 7.1 earthquakes warped the earth’s surface. We have annotated the map to highlight its remarkable features: knife-edge faulting in the south, and a widely distributed band of secondary faults and shear in the north. That broad pattern of deformation may explain why geologists had missed the fault in the first place: it masquerades as hundreds of small, discontinuous tears at the surface. By using this image and others like it that will come in as more radar satellites pass over the Ridgecrest area, we can study how the slip in these earthquakes was distributed at depth, why the fault may have slipped that way, and what that might mean for how earthquakes occur in general.

The interferogram is derived from the ALOS-2 satellite, operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), with images taken before (16 April 2018) and after (8 July 2019) the earthquakes. Each color cycle represents 11.45 cm (4.5 inches) of ground displacement in the radar line-of-sight (28° from vertical and roughly east).

JAXA ALOS-2 satellite aka DAICH-2

Foreshocks of foreshocks

When we look how the earthquake sequence unfolded in time, we see what we might call ‘nested foreshocks.’ First, a M 4.0 struck 30 min before the M 6.4 mainshock in virtually the same location. Rare, but not unprecedented. About 18 hours into the M 6.4 aftershock sequence, the largest aftershock, a M 5.3 event struck. Then, about 16 hours later, the M 7.1 ruptured less than 3 km from the site of the M 5.3. That’s also rare. But while fascinating, we don’t see much that marks those little shocks for future greatness.

Here are the quakes in time. This plot is preliminary, as the locations will ultimately be improved, and many of the small quakes that struck soon after the mainshocks will be recovered. Thinking about this sequence was inspired by Derek Watkins from the New York Times.

Aftershocks in the Coso Volcanic Field and on the Garlock Fault: Cause for concern?

The Coso Volcanic Field, an area northwest of the earthquake with a history of seismic swarms, has lit up in earthquakes since the 7.1 quake. Over the past 48 hours, aftershocks have also begun to show up along parts of the Garlock Fault to the southwest. Can we explain these observations?

One can see 8-10 small shocks on the Garlock Fault (lower left), and a large cluster at Coso Volcanic Field (upper left).

When an earthquake ruptures a fault, it warps the surrounding earth (as captured by the satellite image above) and therefore changes the state of stress in the earth around it, including along nearby faults. These stress changes can push some faults closer to failure and pull others further from it, depending on where they are with respect to the earthquake. In the plot below, we calculated what the M 7.1 shock might have done to the major mapped faults in the region and others oriented like them. All else being equal, we would expect aftershocks to be more numerous around faults brought closer to failure by the stress changes in the M 7.1 shock (the red zones below), and less prevalent along faults inhibited from failure (the blue ‘stress shadows’).

Faults in the red lobes are calculated to be brought closer to failure; those in the blue ‘stress shadows’ are inhibited from failure. The calculation estimates what the dominant fault orientations are around the earthquakes by interpolating between major mapped faults (shown in red lines). So, we would expect strong stressing in the Coso Volcanic Field to the north (where the aftershocks lie), and along the Garlock Fault to the south (but not where most of them lie).

We see that the the 7.1 quake likely brought faults in the Coso Volcanic Field closer to failure, consistent with the abundant aftershocks there. But although the quake also strongly increased the Coulomb stress on a 30-km (20-mile) stretch of the Garlock, most of the aftershocks along the Garlock have in fact appeared in a blue zone to the southwest. Satellite radar imagery spanning several years before these quakes suggests the Garlock may be slowly creeping in the blue zone [Tong et al., 2013], which if real could play into seismicity there, but that signal is within the noise level of the dataset. Satellite radar imagery and other geodetic (surface deformation) data and field observations will help piece together what has been going on, not only near the Garlock but everywhere in and around the Ridgecrest sequence.

This calculation differs from the one above in that the stress changes are calculated on faults that are perfectly oriented for failure under the regional stress direction, which is north-south compression and east-west extension.

It is also possible that some of those aftershocks to the southwest didn’t actually occur on the Garlock, but instead on smaller nearby faults that are more optimally oriented for failure under the current tectonic stressing that drives the Eastern California Shear Zone. (The Garlock, for its part, has been rotated severely out of alignment with the regional stress direction, so exactly how much and how often it still slips is a topic of ongoing research.) The above plot shows that faults with this more optimal orientation would have in fact been slightly promoted for failure by the Ridgecrest quake down around where those aftershocks are occurring. We see that faults oriented like this in the Coso region would also have been in

Time history at Coso shows a mystery: The M 6.4 shock had no effect, but the M 7.1 produced abundant shocks.

A closer look at Coso shows that, intriguingly, it was quiet after the M 6.4 4th of July earthquake, but began to light up in earthquakes as soon as the M 7.1 hit on July 5. That might be because the 7.1 was a much larger earthquake and induced larger Coulomb stress changes there; it might alternatively (or also) be because the throughgoing seismic waves from the 7.1 shook Coso harder. We note that a M 7.5 earthquake in Ecuador earlier this year may have also been correlated with a temporary uptick in seismicity in Coso, but two other large remote earthquakes don’t look like they were. This effect, called remote triggering, has been observed in various parts of the world following several large earthquakes in the past 25 years, but studies differ on whether it is characteristic of the Coso region [Castro et al., 2017; Zhang et al., 2017]. Nevertheless, with more in-depth research, we can use the Ridgecrest sequence and Coso aftershocks as a natural experiment that helps shed light on what controls earthquake behavior there – and therefore what may control it in general.

How useful was Temblor in offering guidance to Ridgecrest residents?

Temblor gives three condensed forecasts in one screen. Here it is, slightly annotated:

Temblor app screen for Ridgecrest, California (

– Earthquake Score is 40, which is based on the most current ‘probabilistic’ USGS model. A score of 100 means probable damage of 20% of the replacement cost of a home in 30 years. The score factors in all quakes large and small, near and far, and the amplification of shaking in basins. For comparison, the score is 65 in downtown Los Angeles, and 95 in San Bernardino.

– Lifetime quake is M 6.4. This is the earthquake magnitude that has a 1% chance per year of occurring within 60 mi (100 km); that’s a 60% chance of occurring if you live to 90. It was certainly exceeded, and this tells us that a M 7.1 here is rare. The lifetime quake is M 6.7 for L.A., and M 6.8 for San Bernardino.

– Possible quake is M 6.9. Temblor finds the USGS ‘scenario’ earthquake that produces the strongest shaking at your location and reports its magnitude, fault, and the shaking. Temblor then estimates the cost of repairing the damage to your home in this quake, based on your home’s characteristics. For L.A., it is M 7.0, and for San Bernardino, it is M 7.7. Although the shaking estimate is for a nearby fault with a lower magnitude, it turns out to be spot on: The forecast peak shaking was 55% g (55% of the force of gravity) and the observed was 57%.

Why do we give you two quake magnitudes? (in this case, M 6.4 and M 6.9). The first is the quake size you will more likely than not experience in your lifetime, the second is the largest that the USGS considers possible at your location. On July 5, both were exceeded, but the forecasted shaking nevertheless turned out to be prescient.

In short, while earthquakes will continue to surprise us, their shaking doesn’t have to. Take this opportunity and understand your risk.


Castro, R. R., Clayton, R., Hauksson, E., & Stock, J. (2017). Observations of remotely triggered seismicity in Salton Sea and Coso geothermal regions, Southern California, USA, after big (MW> 7.8) teleseismic earthquakes. Geofísica internacional, 56(3), 269-286.

Tong, X., Sandwell, D. T., & Smith‐Konter, B. (2013). High‐resolution interseismic velocity data along the San Andreas fault from GPS and InSAR. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 118(1), 369-389

Zhang, Q., Lin, G., Zhan, Z., Chen, X., Qin, Y., and Wdowinski, S. (2017). Absence of remote earthquake triggering within the Coso and Salton Sea geothermal production fields. Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1002/2016GL071964.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Earthquake Alert


Earthquake Alert

Earthquake Network project

Earthquake Network is a research project which aims at developing and maintaining a crowdsourced smartphone-based earthquake warning system at a global level. Smartphones made available by the population are used to detect the earthquake waves using the on-board accelerometers. When an earthquake is detected, an earthquake warning is issued in order to alert the population not yet reached by the damaging waves of the earthquake.

The project started on January 1, 2013 with the release of the homonymous Android application Earthquake Network. The author of the research project and developer of the smartphone application is Francesco Finazzi of the University of Bergamo, Italy.

Get the app in the Google Play store.

Smartphone network spatial distribution (green and red dots) on December 4, 2015

Meet The Quake-Catcher Network

QCN bloc

Quake-Catcher Network

The Quake-Catcher Network is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers. With your help, the Quake-Catcher Network can provide better understanding of earthquakes, give early warning to schools, emergency response systems, and others. The Quake-Catcher Network also provides educational software designed to help teach about earthquakes and earthquake hazards.

After almost eight years at Stanford, and a year at CalTech, the QCN project is moving to the University of Southern California Dept. of Earth Sciences. QCN will be sponsored by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC).

The Quake-Catcher Network is a distributed computing network that links volunteer hosted computers into a real-time motion sensing network. QCN is one of many scientific computing projects that runs on the world-renowned distributed computing platform Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC).

The volunteer computers monitor vibrational sensors called MEMS accelerometers, and digitally transmit “triggers” to QCN’s servers whenever strong new motions are observed. QCN’s servers sift through these signals, and determine which ones represent earthquakes, and which ones represent cultural noise (like doors slamming, or trucks driving by).

There are two categories of sensors used by QCN: 1) internal mobile device sensors, and 2) external USB sensors.

Mobile Devices: MEMS sensors are often included in laptops, games, cell phones, and other electronic devices for hardware protection, navigation, and game control. When these devices are still and connected to QCN, QCN software monitors the internal accelerometer for strong new shaking. Unfortunately, these devices are rarely secured to the floor, so they may bounce around when a large earthquake occurs. While this is less than ideal for characterizing the regional ground shaking, many such sensors can still provide useful information about earthquake locations and magnitudes.

USB Sensors: MEMS sensors can be mounted to the floor and connected to a desktop computer via a USB cable. These sensors have several advantages over mobile device sensors. 1) By mounting them to the floor, they measure more reliable shaking than mobile devices. 2) These sensors typically have lower noise and better resolution of 3D motion. 3) Desktops are often left on and do not move. 4) The USB sensor is physically removed from the game, phone, or laptop, so human interaction with the device doesn’t reduce the sensors’ performance. 5) USB sensors can be aligned to North, so we know what direction the horizontal “X” and “Y” axes correspond to.

If you are a science teacher at a K-12 school, please apply for a free USB sensor and accompanying QCN software. QCN has been able to purchase sensors to donate to schools in need. If you are interested in donating to the program or requesting a sensor, click here.

BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, developed at UC Berkeley.

Earthquake safety is a responsibility shared by billions worldwide. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) links existing networked laptops and desktops in hopes to form the worlds largest strong-motion seismic network.

Below, the QCN Quake Catcher Network map
QCN Quake Catcher Network map

ShakeAlert: An Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast of the United States

The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) along with a coalition of State and university partners is developing and testing an earthquake early warning (EEW) system called ShakeAlert for the west coast of the United States. Long term funding must be secured before the system can begin sending general public notifications, however, some limited pilot projects are active and more are being developed. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications in 2018.

Watch a video describing how ShakeAlert works in English or Spanish.

The primary project partners include:

United States Geological Survey
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES)
California Geological Survey
California Institute of Technology
University of California Berkeley
University of Washington
University of Oregon
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Earthquake Threat

Earthquakes pose a national challenge because more than 143 million Americans live in areas of significant seismic risk across 39 states. Most of our Nation’s earthquake risk is concentrated on the West Coast of the United States. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated the average annualized loss from earthquakes, nationwide, to be $5.3 billion, with 77 percent of that figure ($4.1 billion) coming from California, Washington, and Oregon, and 66 percent ($3.5 billion) from California alone. In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake and the Pacific Northwest has a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

Part of the Solution

Today, the technology exists to detect earthquakes, so quickly, that an alert can reach some areas before strong shaking arrives. The purpose of the ShakeAlert system is to identify and characterize an earthquake a few seconds after it begins, calculate the likely intensity of ground shaking that will result, and deliver warnings to people and infrastructure in harm’s way. This can be done by detecting the first energy to radiate from an earthquake, the P-wave energy, which rarely causes damage. Using P-wave information, we first estimate the location and the magnitude of the earthquake. Then, the anticipated ground shaking across the region to be affected is estimated and a warning is provided to local populations. The method can provide warning before the S-wave arrives, bringing the strong shaking that usually causes most of the damage.

Studies of earthquake early warning methods in California have shown that the warning time would range from a few seconds to a few tens of seconds. ShakeAlert can give enough time to slow trains and taxiing planes, to prevent cars from entering bridges and tunnels, to move away from dangerous machines or chemicals in work environments and to take cover under a desk, or to automatically shut down and isolate industrial systems. Taking such actions before shaking starts can reduce damage and casualties during an earthquake. It can also prevent cascading failures in the aftermath of an event. For example, isolating utilities before shaking starts can reduce the number of fire initiations.

System Goal

The USGS will issue public warnings of potentially damaging earthquakes and provide warning parameter data to government agencies and private users on a region-by-region basis, as soon as the ShakeAlert system, its products, and its parametric data meet minimum quality and reliability standards in those geographic regions. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications in 2018. Product availability will expand geographically via ANSS regional seismic networks, such that ShakeAlert products and warnings become available for all regions with dense seismic instrumentation.

Current Status

The West Coast ShakeAlert system is being developed by expanding and upgrading the infrastructure of regional seismic networks that are part of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS); the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) is made up of the Southern California Seismic Network, SCSN) and the Northern California Seismic System, NCSS and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN). This enables the USGS and ANSS to leverage their substantial investment in sensor networks, data telemetry systems, data processing centers, and software for earthquake monitoring activities residing in these network centers. The ShakeAlert system has been sending live alerts to “beta” users in California since January of 2012 and in the Pacific Northwest since February of 2015.

In February of 2016 the USGS, along with its partners, rolled-out the next-generation ShakeAlert early warning test system in California joined by Oregon and Washington in April 2017. This West Coast-wide “production prototype” has been designed for redundant, reliable operations. The system includes geographically distributed servers, and allows for automatic fail-over if connection is lost.

This next-generation system will not yet support public warnings but does allow selected early adopters to develop and deploy pilot implementations that take protective actions triggered by the ShakeAlert notifications in areas with sufficient sensor coverage.


The USGS will develop and operate the ShakeAlert system, and issue public notifications under collaborative authorities with FEMA, as part of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, as enacted by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7704 SEC. 2.

For More Information

Robert de Groot, ShakeAlert National Coordinator for Communication, Education, and Outreach

Learn more about EEW Research

ShakeAlert Fact Sheet

ShakeAlert Implementation Plan