Abrupt change in the dip of the subducting plate beneath north Chile.

Contreras-Reyes, Eduardo, Jara, J., Grevemeyer, Ingo , Ruiz, S. and Carrizo, D. (2012) Abrupt change in the dip of the subducting plate beneath north Chile. Nature Geoscience, 5 (5). pp. 342-345. DOI 10.1038/ngeo1447.

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Abstract

No large tsunamigenic earthquake has occurred in north Chile since 1877 and the region has been largely recognized as a mature seismic gap1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. At the southern end of the seismic gap, the 2007 Mw 7.7 Tocopilla earthquake ruptured the deeper seismogenic interface, whereas the coupled upper interface remained unbroken4, 6, 7. Seismological studies onshore show a gently varying dip of 20° to 30° of the downgoing Nazca plate3, 6, which extends from the trench down to depths of 40–50 km. Here, we study the lithospheric structure of the subduction zone of north Chile at about 22° S, using wide-angle seismic refraction and reflection data from land and sea, complemented by hypocentre data recorded during the 2007 Tocopilla aftershocks7. Our data document an abrupt increase in the dip of the subducting plate, from less than 10° to about 22°, at a depth of approximately 20 km. The distribution of the 2007 aftershocks indicates that the change in dip acted as a barrier for the propagation of the 2007 earthquake towards the trench, which, in turn, indicates that the subduction megathrust is not only segmented along the trench, but also in the direction of the dip. We propose that large-magnitude tsunamigenic earthquakes must cross the barrier and rupture the entire seismogenic zone.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Seismology; Structural geology, tectonics and geodynamics
Research affiliation: OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-GDY Marine Geodynamics
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1038/ngeo1447
ISSN: 1752-0894
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 11 May 2012 07:35
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2017 14:33
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/14273

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