Articles | Volume 5, issue 2
Research article
31 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 31 Oct 2014

Focal mechanism and depth of the 1956 Amorgos twin earthquakes from waveform matching of analogue seismograms

A. Brüstle, W. Friederich, T. Meier, and C. Gross

Abstract. Historic analogue seismograms of the large 1956 Amorgos twin earthquakes which occurred in the volcanic arc of the Hellenic subduction zone (HSZ) were collected, digitized and reanalyzed to obtain refined estimates of their depth and focal mechanism. In total, 80 records of the events from 29 European stations were collected and, if possible, digitized. In addition, bulletins were searched for instrument parameters required to calculate transfer functions for instrument correction. A grid search based on matching the digitized historic waveforms to complete synthetic seismograms was then carried out to infer optimal estimates for depth and focal mechanism. Owing to incomplete or unreliable information on instrument parameters and frequently occurring technical problems during recording, such as writing needles jumping off mechanical recording systems, much less seismograms than collected proved suitable for waveform matching.

For the first earthquake, only seven seismograms from three different stations at Stuttgart (STU), Göttingen (GTT) and Copenhagen (COP) could be used. Nevertheless, the waveform matching grid search yields two stable misfit minima for source depths of 25 and 50 km. Compatible fault plane solutions are either of normal faulting or thrusting type. A separate analysis of 42 impulsive first-motion polarities taken from the International Seismological Summary (ISS bulletin) excludes the thrusting mechanism and clearly favors a normal faulting solution with at least one of the potential fault planes striking in SW–NE direction. This finding is consistent with the local structure and microseismic activity of the Santorini–Amorgos graben. Since crustal thickness in the Amorgos area is generally less than 30 km, a source depth of 25 km appears to be more realistic.

The second earthquake exhibits a conspicuously high ratio of body wave to surface wave amplitudes suggesting an intermediate-depth event located in the Hellenic Wadati–Benioff zone. This hypothesis is supported by a focal mechanism analysis based on first-motion polarities, which indicates a mechanism very different from that of the first event. A waveform matching grid search done to support the intermediate-depth hypothesis proved not to be fruitful because the body wave phases are overlain by strong surface wave coda of the first event inhibiting a waveform match. However, body to surface wave amplitude ratios of a modern intermediate-depth event with an epicenter close to the island of Milos observed at stations of the German Regional Seismic Network (GRSN) exhibit a pattern similar to the one observed for the second event with high values in a frequency band between 0.05 Hz and 0.3 Hz. In contrast, a shallow event with an epicenter in western Crete and nearly identical source mechanism and magnitude, shows very low ratios of body and surface wave amplitude up to 0.17 Hz and higher ratios only beyond that frequency. Based on this comparison with a modern event, we estimate the source depth of the second event to be greater than 100 km. The proximity in time and space of the two events suggests a triggering of the second, potentially deep event by the shallow first one.