Location and moment tensor inversion of small earthquakes using 3D Green’s functions in models with rugged topography: application to the Longmenshan fault zone

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With dense seismic arrays and advanced imaging methods, regional three-dimensional (3D) Earth models have become more accurate. It is now increasingly feasible and advantageous to use a 3D Earth model to better locate earthquakes and invert their source mechanisms by fitting synthetics to observed waveforms. In this study, we develop an approach to determine both the earthquake location and source mechanism from waveform information. The observed waveforms are filtered in different frequency bands and separated into windows for the individual phases. Instead of picking the arrival times, the traveltime differences are measured by cross-correlation between synthetic waveforms based on the 3D Earth model and observed waveforms. The earthquake location is determined by minimizing the cross-correlation traveltime differences. We then fix the horizontal location of the earthquake and perform a grid search in depth to determine the source mechanism at each point by fitting the synthetic and observed waveforms. This new method is verified by a synthetic test with noise added to the synthetic waveforms and a realistic station distribution. We apply this method to a series of MW3.4–5.6 earthquakes in the Longmenshan fault (LMSF) zone, a region with rugged topography between the eastern margin of the Tibetan plateau and the western part of the Sichuan basin. The results show that our solutions result in improved waveform fits compared to the source parameters from the catalogs we used and the location can be better constrained than the amplitude-only approach. Furthermore, the source solutions with realistic topography provide a better fit to the observed waveforms than those without the topography, indicating the need to take the topography into account in regions with rugged topography.

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Earthquake Science