Maximum entropy production and earthquake dynamics

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We examine the consistency of natural and model seismicity with the maximum entropy production hypothesis for open, slowly-driven, steady-state, dissipative systems. Assuming the commonly-observed power-law feedback between remote boundary stress and strain rate at steady state, several natural observations are explained by the system organizing to maximize entropy production in a near but strictly sub-critical state. These include the low but finite seismic efficiency and stress drop, an upper magnitude cut-off that is large but finite, and the universally- observed Gutenberg-Richter b-value of 1 in frequency-magnitude data. In this state the model stress field organizes into coherent domains, providing a physical mechanism for retaining a finite memory of past events. This implies a finite degree of predictability, strongly limited theoretically by the proximity to criticality and practically by the difficulty of directly observing Earth's stress field at an equivalent resolution.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL19311
Number of pages5
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2008


  • entropy
  • earthquake dynamics


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