Does permanent extensional deformation in lower forearc slopes indicate shallow plate-boundary rupture?

Geersen, Jacob, Ranero, César R., Kopp, Heidrun, Behrmann, Jan H., Lange, Dietrich, Klaucke, Ingo, Barrientos, S., Diaz-Naveas, J., Barckhausen, U. and Reichert, C. (2018) Does permanent extensional deformation in lower forearc slopes indicate shallow plate-boundary rupture? Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 489 . pp. 17-27. DOI 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.02.030.

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Abstract

Highlights

• We document marine forearc deformation in the Northern Chile seismic gap.
• Upper-plate normal faulting off Northern Chile locally extends close to the trench.
• Normal faults indicate that past earthquakes may reached the shallow plate-boundary.

Abstract
Seismic rupture of the shallow plate-boundary can result in large tsunamis with tragic socio-economic consequences, as exemplified by the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. To better understand the processes involved in shallow earthquake rupture in seismic gaps (where megathrust earthquakes are expected), and investigate the tsunami hazard, it is important to assess whether the region experienced shallow earthquake rupture in the past. However, there are currently no established methods to elucidate whether a margin segment has repeatedly experienced shallow earthquake rupture, with the exception of mechanical studies on subducted fault-rocks. Here we combine new swath bathymetric data, unpublished seismic reflection images, and inter-seismic seismicity to evaluate if the pattern of permanent deformation in the marine forearc of the Northern Chile seismic gap allows inferences on past earthquake behavior. While the tectonic configuration of the middle and upper slope remains similar over hundreds of kilometers along the North Chilean margin, we document permanent extensional deformation of the lower slope localized to the region 20.8°S–22°S. Critical taper analyses, the comparison of permanent deformation to inter-seismic seismicity and plate-coupling models, as well as recent observations from other subduction-zones, including the area that ruptured during the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake, suggest that the normal faults at the lower slope may have resulted from shallow, possibly near-trench breaking earthquake ruptures in the past. In the adjacent margin segments, the 1995 Antofagasta, 2007 Tocopilla, and 2014 Iquique earthquakes were limited to the middle and upper-slope and the terrestrial forearc, and so are upper-plate normal faults. Our findings suggest a seismo-tectonic segmentation of the North Chilean margin that seems to be stable over multiple earthquake cycles. If our interpretations are correct, they indicate a high tsunami hazard posed by the yet un-ruptured southern segment of the seismic gap.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: subduction-zone; marine forearc; seismic gap; Northern Chile; active tectonics; permanent deformation
Research affiliation: OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence > FO-R06
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-GDY Marine Geodynamics
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.02.030
ISSN: 0012-821X
Projects: Future Ocean
Expeditions/Models:
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2018 08:34
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2018 08:51
URI: http://eprints.uni-kiel.de/id/eprint/42193

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