Scaling and spatial complementarity of tectonic earthquake swarms

Luigi Passarelli*, Eleonora Rivalta, Sigurjón Jónsson, Martin Hensch, Sabrina Metzger, Steinunn S. Jakobsdóttir, Francesco Maccaferri, Fabio Corbi, Torsten Dahm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Tectonic earthquake swarms (TES) often coincide with aseismic slip and sometimes precede damaging earthquakes. In spite of recent progress in understanding the significance and properties of TES at plate boundaries, their mechanics and scaling are still largely uncertain. Here we evaluate several TES that occurred during the past 20 years on a transform plate boundary in North Iceland. We show that the swarms complement each other spatially with later swarms discouraged from fault segments activated by earlier swarms, which suggests efficient strain release and aseismic slip. The fault area illuminated by earthquakes during swarms may be more representative of the total moment release than the cumulative moment of the swarm earthquakes. We use these findings and other published results from a variety of tectonic settings to discuss general scaling properties for TES. The results indicate that the importance of TES in releasing tectonic strain at plate boundaries may have been underestimated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-70
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Jan 15 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Tectonic Earthquake Swarms (TES)
  • aseismic/seismic source mechanisms for TES
  • efficient tectonic strain release by TES
  • moment, duration and migration velocity scalings of TES
  • ridge transform fault earthquakes
  • triggering mechanisms of TES

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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