Static Source Properties of Slow and Fast Earthquakes

Publication type

Journal Article

Research Area


Research Team

Observational Seismology


The source characteristics of slow and fast earthquakes provide a window into the mechanical properties of faults. In particular, the average stress drop controls the evolution of friction, fault slip, and event magnitude. However, this important source property is typically inferred from the analysis of seismic waves and is subject to many epistemic uncertainties. Here, we investigate the source properties of 53 earthquakes and 17 slow-slip events on thrust and strike-slip faults in various tectonic settings using slip distributions constrained by geodesy in combination with other data. We determine the width, potency, and potency density of slow and fast earthquake sources based on static slip distributions. The potency density, defined conceptually as the ratio of average slip to rupture radius, is a measure of anelastic deformation with limited bias from rigidity differences across depths and tectonic settings. Strike-slip earthquakes have the highest potency density, varying from 20 to 500 microstrain. The potency density is on average lower on continental thrust faults and megathrusts, from 10 to 200 microstrain, with an algebraic decrease with centroid depth, indicative of systematic changes in dominant rupture processes with depth. Slow slip events represent an end-member style of rupture with low potency density and large rupture width. Significant variability in potency density of slow-slip events affects their moment-duration scaling. The variations of source properties across tectonic settings, depth, and rupture styles can be used to better constrain numerical simulations of seismicity and to assess the source characteristics of future earthquakes and slow slip events.


Earthquake Source Characteristics, fault properties, geodesy, Potency Density, slow-slip events

Publication Details


Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

Date Published



Article Number


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