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Encyclopedia > Aftershock

Aftershocks are earthquakes in the same region of the mainshock (generally within a few rupture length) but of smaller magnitude and which occur with a pattern that follows Omori's law. Omori's law, or more correctly the modified Omori's law, is an empirical relation for the temporal decay of aftershock rates. Omori published his work on the aftershocks of earthquakes, in which he stated that aftershock frequency decreases by roughly the reciprocal of time after the main shock, in 1894. An earthquake is a phenomenon that results from the sudden release of stored energy in the Earths crust that creates seismic waves. ... The moment magnitude scale was introduced in 1979 by Tom Hanks and Hiroo Kanamori as a successor to the Richter scale and is used by seismologists to compare the energy released by earthquakes. ...

Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes formed as the displaced plate boundary tries to adjust itself. Bridge across the Álfagjá rift valley in southwest Iceland, the boundary of the Eurasian and North American continental tectonic plates. ...


  • n(t) is the number of earthquakes n measured in a certain time t
  • K is the decay rate; and
  • c is the "time offset" parameter

the modified version of the law, now commonly used was proposed by Utsu in 1961.


  • p typically falls in the range 0.7–1.5.

what these equations describe is that the rate of aftershocks dies off quickly with time. The rate of aftershocks is proportional to the inverse of time since the mainshock. Thus whatever the odds of an aftershock are on the first day, the second day will have 1/2 the odds of the first day and the tenth day will have approximately 1/10th the odds of the first day (when p is equal to 1). These patterns describe only the mass behavior of aftershocks; the actual times, numbers and locations of the aftershocks are 'random', while tending to follow these patterns. As this is an empirical law values of the parameters are obtained by fitting to data after the mainshock occurred and they have no physical basis/meaning.

The other main law describing aftershocks is known as Bath's Law and this says that any mainshock typical has an aftershock approximately 1 magnitude (on average 1.2) less than its mainshock. Aftershock sequences also typical follow Guttenberg-Richter scaling. The moment magnitude scale was introduced in 1979 by Tom Hanks and Hiroo Kanamori as a successor to the Richter scale and is used by seismologists to compare the energy released by earthquakes. ...

Aftershocks are dangerous because they are usually unpredictable, can be of a large magnitude, and can collapse buildings that are damaged from the mainshock. Bigger earthquakes have more and larger aftershocks and the sequences can last for years or even longer especially when a large event occurs in a seismically quiet area, see New Madrid Seismic Zone where events still follow Omori's law from the mainshocks in 1811/1812. An Aftershock sequence is deemed to be over when the rate of seismicity drops back to a background level i.e. no further decay in the number of events with time can be detected. Seismic map New Madrid Seismic Zone. ...

See also

A foreshock is a small earthquake occurring before a main earthquake. ... An earthquake storm is a recently proposed theory about earthquakes where an earthquake can trigger a series of other large earthquakes within the same tectonic plate as the stress transfers along the fault. ...

External links

  • Parent's Guide to Aftershocks
  • Earthquake Aftershocks Not What They Seemed

  Results from FactBites:
Earthquake - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3034 words)
A recently proposed theory suggests that some earthquakes may occur in a sort of earthquake storm, where one earthquake will trigger a series of earthquakes each triggered by the previous shifts on the fault lines, similar to aftershocks, but occurring years later, and with some of the later earthquakes as damaging as the early ones.
Such a pattern was observed in the sequence of about a dozen earthquakes that struck the Anatolian Fault in Turkey in the 20th Century, the half dozen large earthquakes in New Madrid in 1811-1812, and has been inferred for older anomalous clusters of large earthquakes in the Middle East and in the Mojave Desert.
Responsible for the shaking hazard, they are P-waves (primary waves), S-waves (secondary or shear waves) and two types of surfaces waves, (Love waves and Rayleigh waves).
  More results at FactBites »



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