Self-driven mode switching of earthquake activity on a fault system

Yehuda Ben-Zion*, Karin Dahmen, Vladimir Lyakhovsky, Deniz Ertas, Amotz Agnon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Theoretical results based on two different modeling approaches indicate that the seismic response of a fault system to steady tectonic loading can exhibit persisting fluctuations in the form of self-driven switching of the response back and forth between two distinct modes of activity. The first mode is associated with clusters of intense seismic activity including the largest possible earthquakes in the system and frequency-size event statistics compatible with the characteristic earthquake distribution. The second mode is characterized by relatively low moment release consisting only of small and intermediate size earthquakes and frequency-size event statistics following a truncated power law. The average duration of each activity mode scales with the time interval of a large earthquake cycle in the system. The results are compatible with various long geologic, paleoseismic, and historical records. The mode switching phenomenon may also exist in responses of other systems with many degrees of freedom and nonlinear dynamics.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 15 Oct 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Geoff King, Andy Michael, Phil Pollett, and Rick O'Connell for useful comments. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (grant EAR-9725358) and the Southern California Earthquake Center (based on NSF Cooperative Agreement EAR-8920136 and USGS Cooperative Agreement 14–08-0001-A0899). [ RC ]


  • Dynamic properties
  • Earthquakes
  • Non-linear distortion
  • Seismicity


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