Rupture process of the 2001 May 7 Mw 4.3 Ekofisk induced earthquake



On 2001 May 7, following unintentional water injection, a moderate size induced earthquake struck the Ekofisk oil field, North Sea. Despite of its relatively moderate magnitude, clear low-frequency waveforms could be recorded up to more than 2000 km epicentral distance, suggesting a slow rupture at very shallow depth and wave propagation through low-velocity shallow structures. The event poses a rare opportunity to constrain rupture velocity, duration and rise time of a superficial M > 4 event occurring on a horizontal plane in soft, water-saturated sediments. Two previous studies discussed the earthquake point source finding vertical dip-slip focal mechanisms with opposite senses of P and T axes. A further investigation was thus required to provide a basis for a deeper discussion of the failure dynamics. We significantly improve the used data set, test different earth models and derive a point source as well as a kinematic rupture model. We carefully discuss parameter uncertainties and effects related to shallow sources and wave propagation through different crustal structures to resolve the previous controversy. We additionally provide a kinematic rupture model, based on apparent source times derived from Rayleigh and Love waves. The waveforms resolve a predominant unilateral rupture along a horizontal plane at about 2 km depth. We derive an unusually slow rupture, consequence of a slow rupture velocity of about 500 m s –1 and a long rise time of about 7 s. An independent modelling of GPS- based static displacements allows to confirm the focal mechanism polarity and to locate the centroid at the eastern side of the field, resulting in a much larger seismic moment in comparison with dynamic seismic moment. The rupture directivity is confirmed by the relative location of the centroid with respect to the epicentre, which is set at the site of water injection.