The 1989 Earthquake Swarm Beneath Mammoth Mountain, California: An Initial Look at the 4 May Through 30 September Activity

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Mammoth Mountain is a 50,000- to 200,000-year-old cumulovolcano standing on the southwestern rim of Long Valley in eastern California. On 4 May 1989, two M = 1 earthquakes beneath the south flank of the mountain marked the onset of a swarm that has continued for more than 6 months. In addition to its longevity, noteworthy aspects of this persistent swarm include (1) an exponential-like increase in the rate of activity through the first month; (2) a vertically oriented, planar distribution of hypocenters at depths between 6 and 9 km with a north-northeast strike (roughly perpendicular to the average T-axis orientation for the swarm earthquakes); (3) recurring spasmodic bursts (rapid-fire sequences of similar-sized earthquakes with overlapping coda) and occasional earthquakes with enhanced low-frequency energy; (4) a uniform temporal distribution of the four largest (M ≈ 3) events over the first 4 months of the swarm with a cumulative seismic moment for the entire sequence through 30 September corresponding to a single M ≈ 4 earthquake; (5) a b-value of 1.2; and (6) submicrostrain perturbations on the nearby borehole dilatometer, the first of which led the onset of swarm activity by more than 2 weeks. These aspects of the swarm, together with its location along the southern extension of the youthful Mono-Inyo volcanic chain, which last erupted 500 to 600 years ago, point to a magmatic source for the modest but persistent influx of strain energy into the crust beneath Mammoth Mountain.

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Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, v. 80, issue 2, p. 325-339