Earthquakes can change the stress field in the Earth's lithosphere as they relieve and redistribute stress. Earthquake-induced stress changes have been observed as temporal rotations of the principal stress axes following major earthquakes in a variety of tectonic settings. The stress changes due to the 2011 Mw9.0 Tohoku-Oki, Japan, earthquake were particularly well documented. Earthquake stress rotations can inform our understanding of earthquake physics, most notably addressing the long-standing problem of whether the Earth's crust at plate boundaries is “strong” or “weak.” Many of the observed stress rotations, including that due to the Tohoku-Oki earthquake, indicate near-complete stress drop in the mainshock. This implies low background differential stress, on the order of earthquake stress drop, supporting the weak crust model. Earthquake stress rotations can also be used to address other important geophysical questions, such as the level of crustal stress heterogeneity and the mechanisms of postseismic stress reloading. The quantitative interpretation of stress rotations is evolving from those based on simple analytical methods to those based on more sophisticated numerical modeling that can capture the spatial-temporal complexity of the earthquake stress changes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science