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SHmax orientation in the Alpine region from stress-induced anisotropy in nonlinear elasticity derived from ambient noise correlations

Major faults such as the Periadriatic Fault and the Giudicarie Fault have been active in the past, and they have even been central features of the larger-scale deformation in the Alps. It seems that these faults are not active anymore though and we investigate why this is so by inspecting the orientation of the regional stress field which loads the faults mechanically. The orientation of maximum horizontal compressive stress (SHmax) is commonly estimated from in-situ borehole breakouts and earthquake focal mechanisms. Borehole measurements are expensive, and therefore sparse, and earthquake measurements can only be made in regions with many well-characterized earthquakes. Here we derive the stress-field orientation using stress-induced anisotropy in nonlinear elasticity. We measure the strain derivative of velocity as a function of azimuth. We use a natural pump-probe approach which consists of measuring elastic wave speed using empirical Green’s functions (probe) at different points of the earth tidal strain cycle (pump). The approach is validated using a larger data set in the Northern Alpine Foreland region where the orientation of SHmax is known from borehole breakouts. The technique is then applied to the Southern Alps to understand the contemporary stress pattern associated with the ongoing deformation due to the counterclockwise rotation of the Adriatic plate with respect to the European plate. Our results explain why the two major faults in Northeastern Italy, the Giudicarie Fault and the Periadriatic Line (Pustertal-Gailtal Fault) are currently inactive, while the currently acting stress field allows faults in Slovenia to deform actively.


Yongki Andita Aiman1, Andrew Delorey2, Yang Lu1, Götz Bokelmann1
1University of Vienna, Austria; 2Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA
GeoBerlin 2023