Journal article Open Access
The San Andreas fault is the longest fault in California and one of the longest strike-slip faults in the world, yet little is known about the aftershocks following the most recent great event on the San Andreas, the M_W 7.8 San Francisco earthquake on 18 April 1906. We conducted a study to locate and to estimate magnitudes for the largest aftershocks and triggered events of this earthquake. We examined existing catalogs and historical documents for the period April 1906 to December 1907, compiling data on the first 20 months of the aftershock sequence. We grouped felt reports temporally and assigned modified Mercalli intensities for the larger events based on the descriptions judged to be the most reliable. For onshore and near-shore events, a grid-search algorithm (derived from empirical analysis of modern earthquakes) was used to find the epicentral location and magnitude most consistent with the assigned intensities. For one event identified as far offshore, the event's intensity distribution was compared with those of modern events, in order to constrain the event's location and magnitude. The largest aftershock within the study period, an M ∼6.7 event, occurred ∼100 km west of Eureka on 23 April 1906. Although not within our study period, another M ∼6.7 aftershock occurred near Cape Mendocino on 28 October 1909. Other significant aftershocks included an M ∼5.6 event near San Juan Bautista on 17 May 1906 and an M ∼6.3 event near Shelter Cove on 11 August 1907. An M ∼4.9 aftershock occurred on the creeping segment of the San Andreas fault (southeast of the mainshock rupture) on 6 July 1906. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake also triggered events in southern California (including separate events in or near the Imperial Valley, the Pomona Valley, and Santa Monica Bay), in western Nevada, in southern central Oregon, and in western Arizona, all within 2 days of the mainshock. Of these triggered events, the largest were an M ∼6.1 earthquake near Brawley and an M ∼5.0 event under or near Santa Monica Bay, 11.3 and 31.3 hr after the San Francisco mainshock, respectively. The western Arizona event is inferred to have been triggered dynamically. In general, the largest aftershocks occurred at the ends of the 1906 rupture or away from the rupture entirely; very few significant aftershocks occurred along the mainshock rupture itself. The total number of large aftershocks was less than predicted by a generic model based on typical California mainshock–aftershock statistics, and the 1906 sequence appears to have decayed more slowly than average California sequences. Similarities can be drawn between the 1906 aftershock sequence and that of the 1857 (M_W 7.9) San Andreas fault earthquake.