Recurrence and interoccurrence behavior of self-organized complex phenomena

S. G. Abaimov, D. L. Turcotte, R. Shcherbakov, J. B. Rundle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The sandpile, forest-fire and slider-block models are said to exhibit self-organized criticality. Associated natural phenomena include landslides, wildfires, and earthquakes. In all cases the frequency-size distributions are well approximated by power laws (fractals). Another important aspect of both the models and natural phenomena is the statistics of interval times. These statistics are particularly important for earthquakes. For earthquakes it is important to make a distinction between interoccurrence and recurrence times. Interoccurrence times are the interval times between earthquakes on all faults in a region whereas recurrence times are interval times between earthquakes on a single fault or fault segment. In many, but not all cases, interoccurrence time statistics are exponential (Poissonian) and the events occur randomly. However, the distribution of recurrence times are often Weibull to a good approximation. In this paper we study the interval statistics of slip events using a slider-block model. The behavior of this model is sensitive to the stiffness α of the system, α=kC/kL where kC is the spring constant of the connector springs and kL is the spring constant of the loader plate springs. For a soft system (small α) there are no system-wide events and interoccurrence time statistics of the larger events are Poissonian. For a stiff system (large α), system-wide events dominate the energy dissipation and the statistics of the recurrence times between these system-wide events satisfy the Weibull distribution to a good approximation. We argue that this applicability of the Weibull distribution is due to the power-law (scale invariant) behavior of the hazard function, i.e. the probability that the next event will occur at a time t0 after the last event has a power-law dependence on t0. The Weibull distribution is the only distribution that has a scale invariant hazard function. We further show that the onset of system-wide events is a well defined critical point. We find that the number of system-wide events NSWE satisfies the scaling relation NSWE α (α-αC)δ where αC is the critical value of the stiffness. The system-wide events represent a new phase for the slider-block system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-464
Number of pages10
JournalNonlinear Processes in Geophysics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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