Seismological and geodetic constraints on the 2011 Mw5.3 Trinidad, Colorado earthquake and induced deformation in the Raton Basin

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Abstract

The Raton Basin of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico is an actively produced hydrocarbon basin that has experienced increased seismicity since 2001, including the August 2011 Mw5.3 Trinidad normal faulting event. Following the 2011 earthquake, regional seismic observations were used to relocate 21 events, including the 2011 main shock, two foreshocks, and 13 aftershocks. Additionally, interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) observations of both the 2011 event and preevent basin deformation place constraint on the spatial kinematics of the 2011 event and localized basin subsidence due to ground water or gas withdrawal. We find that the 2011 earthquake ruptured an 8-10 km long segment of a normal fault at depths of 1.5-6.0 km within the crystalline Precambrian basement underlying the Raton Basin sedimentary rocks. The earthquake also nucleated within the crystalline basement in the vicinity of an active wastewater disposal site. The ensuing aftershock sequence demonstrated statistical properties expected for intraplate earthquakes, though the length of the 2011 earthquake is unexpectedly long for an Mw5.3 event, suggesting that wastewater disposal may have triggered a low stress drop, otherwise natural earthquake. Additionally, preevent and postevent seismicity in the Raton Basin spatially correlates to regions of subsidence observed in InSAR time series analysis. While these observations cannot discern a causal link between hydrocarbon production and seismicity, they constrain spatial relationships between active basin deformation and geological and anthropogenic features. Furthermore, the InSAR observations highlight the utility of space-based geodetic observations for monitoring and assessing anthropogenically induced and triggered deformation.

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Barnhart, W. D., Benz, H. M., Hayes, G. P., Rubinstein, J. L., & Bergman, E. (2014). Seismological and geodetic constraints on the 2011 Mw5.3 Trinidad, Colorado earthquake and induced deformation in the Raton Basin. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 119(10), 7923–7933. https://doi.org/10.1002/2014JB011227

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