Two Categories of Earthquake Precursors, Physical and Tectonic

PAGEOPH, Vol. 126, Nos. 24 (1988) 0033-4553/88/020687-1451.50+0.20/0
9 1988 Birkhiiuser Verlag, Basel

Two Categories of Earthquake Precursors, Physical and Tectonic, and Their Roles in Intermediate-Term Earthquake Prediction

I suggest that earthquake precursors can be divided into two major categories, physical and tectonic. I define physical precursor to be a direct or indirect indication of initiation or progression of an irreversible rupture-generating physical process within the preparation zone of a forthcoming earthquake.
Tectonic precursor is defined as a manifestation of tectonic movement which takes place outside the preparation zone of an impending earthquake as a link in a chain of particular local tectonism in each individual area preceding the earthquake.
Most intermediate-term, short-term and immediate precursors of various disciplines within the source regions of main shocks are considered physical ones. Some recursory crustal deformations around the source regions are, however, possibly tectonic precursors, because they may be caused by episodic plate motions or resultant block movements in the neighboring regions of the fault segments that will break. A possible example of this phenomena is the anomalous crustal uplift in the Izu Peninsula, Japan, before the 1978 Izu-Oshima earthquake of M s 6.8. Some precursory changes in seismicity patterns in wide areas surrounding source regions also seem to be tectonic precursors, because they were probably caused by the particular tectonic setting of each region. A typical example is a so-called doughnut patternbefore the 1923 Kanto, Japan, earthquake of Ms 8.2.
Although most studies on earthquake precursors so far seem to regard implicitly all precursory phenomena observed as physical ones, the two categories should be distinguished carefully when statistical analysis or physical modeling is carried out based on reported precursory phenomena. In active plate boundary zones, where a practical strategy for earthquake prediction may well be different from that in intraplate regions, tectonic precursors can be powerful additional tools for intermediate-term earthquake prediction.
Key words: Earthquake prediction, earthquake precursor, physical precursor, tectonic precursor, 1978 Izu-Oshima earthquake, 1923 Kanto earthquake.


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