US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 17, NO. 9, PAGES 1441-1444, AUGUST 1990


Earthquake focal mechanisms from before and after the 1989 Loma Prieta, California earthquake are used to infer the coseismic stress change. Before the main shock, most earthquakes correspond to right lateral slip on planes sub-parallel to the San Andreas fault, and imply a generally N-S most compressionsal stress axis anda vertical intermediate stress axis. Aftershocks within the main shock rupture zone, however, display almost every style and orientation of faulting, implying an extremely heterogeneous stress field. This suggests that the main shock relieved most, if not all, of the shear stress acting on its fault plane. Aftershocks that lie on the perimeter of the rupture agree with spatially uniform stress states, but only when considered in three groups: north, south, and above the main shock rupture area. In each of these areas the stress state may reflect stress transfer by the main shock.