Papers on Seismology
Global patterns of radiated seismic energy and apparent stress
Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
This paper is not subject to U.S. copyright. Published in 1995 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth (1978–2012)
Volume 100, Issue B9, pages 18205–18228, 10 September 1995
How to Cite
1995), Global patterns of radiated seismic energy and apparent stress, J. Geophys. Res., 100(B9), 18205–18228, doi:10.1029/95JB01969., and (
- Issue published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 20 JUN 1995
- Manuscript Received: 12 JUL 1994
Radiated energies from shallow earthquakes with magnitudes ≥5.8 that occurred between 1986 and 1991 are used to examine global patterns of energy release and apparent stress. In contrast to traditional methods which have relied upon empirical formulas, these energies are computed through direct spectral analysis of broadband seismic waveforms. Velocity-squared spectra of body waves are integrated after they have been corrected for effects arising from depth phases, frequency-dependent attenuation, and focal mechanism. The least squares regression fit of energy Es to surface wave magnitude Ms for a global set of 397 earthquakes yields log Es = 4.4 + 1.5Ms, which implies that the Gutenberg-Richter relationship overestimates the energies of earthquakes. The least squares fit between Es and seismic moment M0 is given by the relationship Es = 1.6 × 10−5 M0, which yields 0.47 MPa as the average global value of apparent stress. However, the regression lines of both Es–Ms and Es–M0 yield poor empirical predictors for the actual energy radiated by any given earthquake; the scatter of data is more than an order of magnitude about each of the regression lines. On the other hand, global variations between Es and Mo, while large, are not random. When subsets of Es–M0 are plotted as a function of seismic region and faulting type, the scatter in data is substantially reduced. The Es–M0 fits for many seismic regions and tectonic environments are very distinctive, and a characteristic apparent stress τc can be derived. The lowest apparent stresses (<1.5 MPa) are associated with thrust earthquakes at subduction zones. The highest apparent stresses (>3.0 MPa) are associated with strike-slip earthquakes that occur at oceanic ridge-ridge transforms and in intraplate environments seaward of island arcs. Intermediate values of apparent stress (1.5 < τa < 3.0 MPa) are associated with strike-slip earthquakes at incipient or transitional plate boundaries. In general, the dominant mode of failure for a tectonic environment is associated with the faulting type that has the lowest apparent stress. An energy magnitude ME can complement moment magnitude Mw in describing the size of an earthquake. ME, being derived from velocity power spectra, is a measure of seismic potential for damage. Mw, being derived from the low-frequency asymptote of displacement spectra, is more physically related to the final static displacement of an earthquake. When earthquake size is ranked by moment, a list of the largest events is dominated by earthquakes with thrust mechanisms. When earthquake size is ranked by energy, the list of the largest events is dominated by strike-slip earthquakes.