Seismic gap

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A seismic gap is a segment of an active fault known to produce significant earthquakes, that has not slipped in an unusually long time when compared with other segments along the same structure. Seismic gap hypothesis/theory states that, over long periods of time, the displacement on any segment must be equal to that experienced by all the other parts of the fault.[1] Any large and longstanding gap is therefore considered to be the fault segment most likely to suffer future earthquakes.

The applicability of this approach has been criticised by some seismologists,[2] although earthquakes have occurred in previously identified seismic gaps in some cases.


Cross sections along the San Andreas fault showing recorded seismic activity A) 20 years before the Loma Prieta event, B) The main shock (large circle) and aftershocks for the Loma Prieta event, USGS Circular 1045

Loma Prieta Seismic Gap, California[edit]

Prior to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, that segment of the San Andreas fault system recorded much less seismic activity than other parts of the fault.[3] The main shock and aftershocks of the 1989 event occurred within the previous seismic gap.

Central Kuril gap, Russia[edit]

Immediately following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, a seismic gap analysis of the seismic zones around the Pacific Ocean identified the Central Kuril segment of the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench subduction zone as the most likely to give rise to a major earthquake.[4] This zone, 500 km in length, at that time had experienced no major earthquake since 1780, but was bounded to north and south by segments that had moved within the last 100 years. The Mw = 8.3 earthquake of 15 November 2006 and the Mw = 8.2 earthquake of 13 January 2007 occurred within the defined gap.


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