Convergence of the frequency-magnitude distribution of global earthquakes: Maybe in 200 years



[1] I study the ability to estimate the tail of the frequency-magnitude distribution of global earthquakes. While power-law scaling for small earthquakes is accepted by support of data, the tail remains speculative. In a recent study, Bell et al. (2013) claim that the frequency-magnitude distribution of global earthquakes converges to a tapered Pareto distribution. I show that this finding results from data fitting errors, namely from the biased maximum likelihood estimation of the corner magnitude θin strongly undersampled models. In particular, the estimation of θdepends solely on the few largest events in the catalog. Taking this into account, I compare various state-of-the-art models for the global frequency-magnitude distribution. After discarding undersampled models, the remaining ones, including the unbounded Gutenberg-Richter distribution, perform all equally well and are, therefore, indistinguishable. Convergence to a specific distribution, if it ever takes place, requires about 200 years homogeneous recording of global seismicity, at least.