On the stress dependence of the earthquake b value

Scholz, Christopher H.

Laboratory experiments have shown that the b value in the size distribution of acoustic emission events decreases linearly with differential stress. There have been a number of observations that indicate that this relation may also hold for earthquakes. Here using a simple frictional strength model for stresses in the continental lithosphere combined with earthquake b values measured as a function of depth in a wide variety of tectonic regions, we verify and calibrate that relation, finding b = 1.23 ± 0.06 − (0.0012 ± 0.0003)(σ1 − σ3), where the stress difference (σ1 − σ3) is in megapascal. For subduction zones, we find that b value correlates linearly with the slab pull force and with the net reduction of plate interface normal force, both of which also indicate a negative linear relation between b value and differential stress.


Also Published In

Geophysical Research Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Seismology, Geology, and Tectonophysics
AGU Publications
Published Here
October 1, 2015