Tutorial: Seismic source characterization and estimation of uncertainties

Carl Tape
University of Alaska Fairbanks

A seismic moment tensor is a 3 x 3 symmetric matrix that provides a compact representation of seismic events within Earth's crust. We develop an algorithm to estimate moment tensors and their uncertainties from observed seismic data. For a given event, the algorithm performs a grid search over the six-dimensional space of moment tensors by generating synthetic waveforms at each grid point and then evaluating a misfit function between the observed and synthetic waveforms. The moment tensor M for the event is then the moment tensor with minimum misfit. To describe the uncertainty associated with M, we first convert the misfit function to a probability function. The uncertainty, or rather the confidence, is then given by the confidence curve P(V), where P(V) is the probability that the true moment tensor for the event lies within the neighborhood of M that has fractional volume V. The area under the confidence curve provides a single, abbreviated confidence parameter for M. We apply the method to data from events in different regions and tectonic settings: small (Mw < 2.5) events at Uturuncu volcano in Bolivia, moderate (Mw > 4) earthquakes in the southern Alaska subduction zone, and nuclear explosions at the Nevada Test Site. Moment tensor uncertainties allow us to better discriminate among moment tensor source types and to assign physical processes to the events.

Presentation (PDF File)

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