The major features of the dynamics of seismicity are summarized in order to provide a phenomenological background for its theoretical modeling. The earthquake-generating part of the solid Earth presents a hierarchical nonlinear dissipative system. It consists of a hierarchy of blocks, separated by fractured boundary zones where, due to the relative movement of the blocks, earthquakes are generated. This system shows partial self-similarity, fractality, and self-organisation; it remains in a subcritical state even after a large discharge of energy and it probably has an intermediate number of degrees of freedom. The approach of a strong earthquake is reflected in the transient characteristics of earthquake flow; their scaling is indicated. Phenomenology and numerical modeling of these characteristics suggest that a wide variety of the systems of interacting elements share the following hypothetical symptoms of approaching critical transition: the response of the system to excitation increases and the background activity (static) of the system becomes more clustered, intense, irregular and synergetic. © 1994.
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