On the observability of isotropic seismic sources: The July 31, 1970 Colombian earthquake

Emile A. Okal*, Robert J. Geller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Theoretical calculations are made to study the observability of isotropic components of seismic sources. In particular we consider the 1970 deep Colombian earthquake, for which a precursory isotropic component was previously reported by Gilbert and Dziewonski. We compare an ultra-long period vertical record at Pasadena of the 1970 event to synthetic seismograms calculated both for Gilbert and Dziewonski's source model and for the pure double-couple source of Furumoto and Fukao, and obtain better overall agreement for the latter. The amplitude of the long-period synthetic for the isotropic source is about 5-15 times smaller than the synthetic for the deviatoric source, suggesting that the data may be relatively insensitive to the presence of a small isotropic source. When this possibility was tested, the overall agreement was found to be almost completely insensitive to the presence of even a reasonably large isotropic component. However, the isotropic source was derived from multi-station moment tensor inversion, rather than from single-station studies. A numerical experiment on the effect of lateral heterogeneity of eigenfrequencies and of Q on the inversion for the moment tensor shows that even relatively small amounts of heterogeneity can produce spurious isotropic sources from moment tensor inversion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-196
Number of pages21
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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