Magnitude Limits of Subduction Zone Earthquakes Public Deposited

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  • Maximum earthquake magnitude (m[subscript x]) is a critical parameter in seismic hazard and risk analysis. However, some recent large earthquakes have shown that most of the existing methods for estimating m[subscript x] are inadequate. Moreover, m[subscript x] itself is ill-defined because its meaning largely depends on the context, and it usually cannot be inferred using existing data without associating it with a time interval. In this study, we use probable maximum earthquake magnitude within a time period of interest, m[subscript p](T), to replace m[subscript x]. The term m[subscript p](T) contains not only the information of magnitude limit but also the occurrence rate of the extreme events. We estimate m[subscript p](T) for circum-Pacific subduction zones using tapered Gutenberg–Richter (TGR) distributions. The estimation of the two TGR parameters, β-value and corner magnitude (m[subscript c]), is performed using the maximum-likelihood method with the constraint from tectonic moment rate. To populate the TGR, the rates of smaller earthquakes are needed. We apply the Whole Earth model, a high-resolution global estimate of the rate of m ≥ 5 earthquakes, to estimate these rates. The uncertainties of m[subscript p](T) are calculated using Monte-Carlo simulation. Our results show that most of the circum-Pacific subduction zones can generate m ≥ 8.5 earthquakes over a 250-year interval, m ≥ 8.8 earthquakes over a 500-year interval, and m ≥ 9.0 earthquakes over a 10,000-year interval. For the Cascadia subduction zone, we include the 10,000-year paleoseismic record based on turbidite studies to supplement the limited instrumental earthquake data. Our results show that over a 500-year period, m ≥ 8.8 earthquakes are expected in this zone; over a 1000-year period, m ≥ 9.0 earthquakes are expected; and over a 10,000-year period, m ≥ 9.3 earthquakes are expected.
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  • Rong, Y., Jackson, D. D., Magistrale, H., Goldfinger, C. (2014). Magnitude Limits of Subduction Zone Earthquakes. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 104(5), 2359-2377. doi:10.1785/0120130287
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