Distributed power-law seismicity changes and crustal deformation in the SW Hellenic ARC
Abstract. A region of definite accelerating seismic release rates has been identified at the SW Hellenic Arc and Trench system, of Peloponnesus, and to the south-west of the island of Kythera (Greece). The identification was made after detailed, parametric time-to-failure modelling on a 0.1° square grid over the area 20° E – 27° E and 34° N–38° N. The observations are strongly suggestive of terminal-stage critical point behaviour (critical exponent of the order of 0.25), leading to a large earthquake with magnitude 7.1 ± 0.4, to occur at time 2003.6 ± 0.6. In addition to the region of accelerating seismic release rates, an adjacent region of decelerating seismicity was also observed. The acceleration/deceleration pattern appears in such a well structured and organised manner, which is strongly suggestive of a causal relationship. An explanation may be that the observed characteristics of distributed power-law seismicity changes may be produced by stress transfer from a fault, to a region already subjected to stress inhomogeneities, i.e. a region defined by the stress field required to rupture a fault with a specified size, orientation and rake. Around a fault that is going to rupture, there are bright spots (regions of increasing stress) and stress shadows (regions relaxing stress); whereas acceleration may be observed in bright spots, deceleration may be expected in the shadows. We concluded that the observed seismic release patterns can possibly be explained with a family of NE-SW oriented, left-lateral, strike-slip to oblique-slip faults, located to the SW of Kythera and Antikythera and capable of producing earthquakes with magnitudes MS ~ 7. Time-to-failure modelling and empirical analysis of earthquakes in the stress bright spots yield a critical exponent of the order 0.25 as expected from theory, and a predicted magnitude and critical time perfectly consistent with the figures given above. Although we have determined an approximate location, time and magnitude, it is as yet difficult to assert a prediction for reasons discussed in the text. However, our results, as well as similar independent observations by another research team, indicate that a strong earthquake may occur at the SW Hellenic Arc, in the next few years.