Foreshock Patterns Preceding Great Earthquakes in the Subduction Zone of Chile

  • G. A. PapadopoulosEmail author
  • G. Minadakis
Part of the Pageoph Topical Volumes book series (PTV)


Foreshock activity is considered as one of the most promising precursory changes for the main shock prediction in the short term. Averaging over several foreshock sequences has shown that foreshocks are characterized by distinct 3D patterns: their epicenters move towards the main shock epicenter, event count accelerates, and b-value drops. However, these space–time-size patterns were verified so far only in a very few individual cases mainly due to inadequate seismicity catalogue data. We have investigated 3D foreshock patterns before the Mw 8.8 Maule in 27 February 2010, Mw 8.1 Iquique in 1 April 2014, and Mw 8.4 Illapel in 16 September 2015 great earthquakes in the Chile subduction zone. To avoid biased results, no a priori spatiotemporal definitions of foreshocks were inserted. The procedure was based on pattern recognition from statistically significant seismicity changes in the three domains. The pattern recognition in one domain was independent of the pattern recognition in another domain. We found and verified with two independent catalogue data sets (CSN, IPOC) that within a critical area of ca. 65 km from the main shock epicenter, the 2014 event was preceded by distinct foreshock 3D patterns. A nearly weak foreshock stage (20 January–14 March 2014) was followed by a main-strong stage (15 March–1 April 2014) highly significant in all domains, although foreshock activity slightly decreased in about the last 5 days. Seismic moment release also accelerated in the last stage due to the occurrence of a cluster of very strong foreshock events. Foreshock activity very likely occurred in the hanging-wall fault domain on the South American Plate overriding Nazca Plate. The 2014 foreshock activity was quite similar to the one preceding the 6 Apr. 2009 L’ Aquila (Italy) Mw 6.3 earthquake associated with normal faulting. Using the 2014 earthquake as a reference event, we observed that similar foreshock 3D patterns preceded the 2010 and 2015 earthquakes within critical distances of about 170 and 50 km, respectively. However, the foreshock activities were only weak in both the cases likely because of poor catalogue completeness.


Foreshocks pattern recognition b value earthquake prediction subduction zone Chile 


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© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geodynamics, National Observatory of AthensAthensGreece

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