So, what can be considered typical? The Richter magnitude scale is logarithmic, and one magnitude unit step reflects a thirtyfold increase in energy release. Therefore, the largest aftershock typically has about one-fortieth the energy release of the mainshock. In developing an earthquake hazard model, typical aftershock sequences are not included in the modeling. The argument goes, if the amplitude of ground motions from the mainshock was enveloped around the original mainshock fault rupture, then aftershocks, by their location and severity, will not exceed this local ground motion threshold.
Including aftershocks would require modeling of tens or even hundreds of additional events for each mainshock, the very large majority of which would be inconsequential or repeat damage already modeled for the mainshock. Furthermore, any contribution of damage from the larger aftershocks may be impossible to isolate, so vulnerability functions based on claims data will already be supplemented by damage from aftershocks.
However, looking at Christchurch, what if we encounter a situation when the aftershocks are larger or more distant from the mainshock than is typical? Suppose we amplify the distinction by placing the mainshock in a rural area and the largest aftershock at shallow depth under a neighboring city?
Examining Christchurch. Looking at the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence of —11 , the first and largest event, the Mw7. This fault fired off an easterly progressing chatter of earthquakes, more energetic than a typical aftershock sequence. The largest of these, the Christchurch event with a moment magnitude of 6. In any random location across the Canterbury Plains, such a shallow event would have limited its impacts to damaging a few farmsteads.
This largest aftershock contributed the majority of the damage in the city and all the fatalities. The cost of damage from this, the largest aftershock, was more than four times the original mainshock, and it included the spectacular ultra-liquefaction on the east side of the city, which required relocating 6, households. In response to liquefaction and shaking damage, a total of 1, buildings had to be demolished across central Christchurch.
Beyond February , significant earthquakes continued in the vicinity of the city. There were two further Mw6. Several were large enough and close enough to cause further damage and insurance claims, while inciting alarm and uncertainty among all those citizens and agencies tasked with leading the reconstruction.
Whether measured by the largest magnitude or the number of damaging earthquakes, the sequence of earthquakes triggered by the mainshock was more energetic than a standard aftershock sequence. By , this easterly migrating chatter of earthquakes had petered out offshore, to the east of the city. New Model Approach. However, analysis of the sequence showed that what happened was more energetic than standard aftershocks.
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