Implications of loading/unloading a subduction zone with a heterogeneously coupled interface

M.W. Herman, K.P. Furlong, R.M.A. Govers

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractOther research output

Abstract

Numerical models of subduction zones with appropriate physical properties may help understand deformation throughout great earthquake cycles, as well as associated observations such as the distribution of smaller magnitude megathrust earthquakes and surface displacements. Of particular interest are displacements near the trench, where tsunamis are generated. The patterns of co-seismic strain release in great megathrust earthquakes depend on the frictional coupling of the plate interface prior to the event. Geodetic observations during the inter-seismic stage suggest that the plates are fully locked at asperities surrounded by zones of apparent partial coupling. We simulate the accumulation (and release) of elastic strain in the subduction system using a finite element model with a relatively simple geometry and material properties. We demonstrate that inter-seismic apparent partial coupling can be dominantly explained by a distribution of completely locked asperities and zero friction elsewhere. In these models, the interface up-dip of the locked zone (< 15 km depth) accumulates large slip deficit even if its coefficient of friction is zero, as might be inferred from the scarcity of megathrust earthquakes shallower than ~15 km in global earthquake catalogs. In addition, the upper plate above a low-friction shallow megathrust accumulates large displacements with little internal strain, potentially leading to large co-seismic block displacements (low displacement gradients) of the near-trench seafloor like those observed following the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku earthquake. This is also consistent with anomalously low co-seismic frictional heating of the shallow megathrust indicated by borehole heat flow measurements after the Tohoku event. Our models also yield insights into slip partitioning throughout multiple earthquake cycles. In smaller ruptures, fault slip is inhibited by nearby locked zones; in subsequent multi-segment ruptures, the rest of this slip deficit may be released, producing significantly larger slip than might be expected based on historical earthquake magnitudes. Finally, because low-friction areas around asperities accumulate some slip deficit but may not rupture co-seismically, these regions may be the primary locations of afterslip following the rupture of the locked patch.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAGU Fall Meeting 2017 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: 11 Dec 201715 Dec 2017
https://fallmeeting.agu.org/2017/#

Conference

ConferenceAGU Fall Meeting 2017
Abbreviated titleAGU Fall Meeting 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans
Period11/12/1715/12/17
Internet address

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