Earthquake Report: Loyalty Islands Update #1

I just got back from one of the best conferences that I have ever attended, PATA Days 2017 (Paleoseismology, Active Tectonics, and Archeoseismology). This conference was held in Blenheim, New Zealand and was planned to commemorate the 300 year anniversary of the 1717 AD Alpine fault earthquake (the possibly last “full” margin rupture of the Alpine fault, a strike-slip plate boundary between the Australia and Pacific plates, with a slip rate of about 30 mm per year, tapering northwwards as synthetic strike slip faults splay off from the AF). While the meeting was being planned, the 2016 M 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake happened, which expanded the subject matter somewhat.

Prior to the meeting, we all attended a one day field trip reviewing field evidence for surface rupture and coseismic deformation and landslides from the M 7.8 earthquake in the northern part of the region. The road is still cut off and being repaired, so one cannot drive along the coast between Blenheim and Christchurch (will be open in a few months). During the meeting, there were three days of excellent talks (check out #PATA17 on twitter). Following the meeting, a myajority of the group attended a three day field trip to review the geologic evidence as reviewed by earthquake geologists here of historic and prehistoric earthquakes on the Alpine fault and faults along the Marlborough fault zone (faults that splay off the Alpine fault, extracting plate boundary motion from the Alpine fault). The final day we saw field evidence of rupture from the M 7.8 earthquake, including a coseismic landslide, which blocked a creek. The creek later over-topped some adjacent landscape, down-cutting and exposing stratigraphy that reveals evidence for past rupture on that fault. The trip was epic and the meeting was groundbreaking (apologies for the pun).

This region of the southern New Hebrides subduction zone is formed by the subduction of the Australia plate beneath the Pacific plate. There has been an ongoing earthquake sequence since around Halloween (I prepared a report shortly after I arrived in New Zealand; here is my report for the early part of this sequence). Today there was the largest magnitude earthquake in the sequence. This M 7.0 earthquake generated a tsunami measured on tide gages in the region. However, there was a low likelihood of a transpacific tsunami. The sequence beginning several weeks ago included outer rise extension earthquakes and associated thrust fault earthquakes along the upper plate. I have discussed how the lower/down-going plates in a subduction zone flex and cause extension in this flexed bulge (called the outer rise because it bulges up slightly). Here is my report discussing a possibly triggered outer rise earthquake associated with the 2011 M 9.0 Tohoku-oki earthquake. Here is my report for this M 6.0 earthquake from 2016.08.20.

While looking into this further today, I found that there was a similar sequence (to the current sequence) in 2003-2004. For both sequences, there is an interplay between the upper and lower plates, with compressional earthquakes in the upper plate and extensional earthquakes in the lower plate. Based upon the 2003-2004 sequence, it is possible that there may be a forthcoming compressional earthquake. However, there are many factors that drive the changes in static stress along subduction zones and how that stress may lead to an earthquake (so, there may not be a large earthquake in the upper plate). This is just a simple comparison (albeit for a section of the subduction zone in close proximity).

  • I list below some USGS earthquake pages for earthquakes in this report.
  • These are earthquakes from this current sequence.
  • 2017.10.31 M 6.8
  • 2017.11.16 M 5.9
  • 2017.11.19 M 6.4
  • 2017.11.19 M 5.9
  • 2017.11.19 M 6.6
  • 2017.11.19 M 7.0
  • 2017.11.20 M 5.8
  • These are earthquakes from the 2003-2004 sequence.
  • 2003.12.25 M 6.5
  • 2003.12.26 M 6.8
  • 2003.12.27 M 6.7
  • 2003.12.27 M 7.3
  • 2003.12.27 M 6.3
  • 2004.01.03 M 6.4
  • 2004.01.03 M 7.1

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.


I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M > 6.5.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely. The moment tensor shows northeast-southwest compression, perpendicular to the convergence at this plate boundary. Most of the recent seismicity in this region is associated with convergence along the New Britain trench or the South Solomon trench.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.
  • I include some inset figures.

  • In the upper right corner I include the map and seismicity cross section from Benz et al. (2011). These maps plot the seismicity and this reveals the nature of the downgoing subducting slab. Shallower earthquakes are generally more related to the subduction zone fault or deformation within either plate (interplate and intraplate earthquakes). While the deeper earthquakes are not megathrust fault related, but solely due to internal crustal deformation (intraplate earthquakes). I highlight the location of the cross section with a blue line labeled G-G’ (and place this cross section in the general location on the main interpretive map.
  • In the lower left corner I include some tide gage records from the region, which are from the UNESCO IOC online Sea Level Monitoring Facility. These three records are labeled A, B, and C and the locations of these gages are designated by red dots on the main map, along with A, B, and C labels in white.
  • Above the raw tide gage records are some reported wave heights from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. These are basically the wave heights recorded on the tide gages, but interpreted by a subject matter expert to estimate the timing of wave arrival and the water surface elevation in excess of the ambient sea level.
  • In the lower right corner I include a comparison between the 2003-2004 sequence and the current and ongoing sequence. I plot moment tensors for earthquakes [largely] from after my initial report (though I include the largest magnitude earthquake in the upper plate). I plot USGS moment tensors for the larger magnitude earthquakes from the 2003 sequence. I also label the along strike extent for these two sequences. They overlap by a very small amount, but generally seem to be happening in adjacent sections of the fault system here. All things being equal, the 2003 sequence included M 7 earthquakes in both the upper and lower plates. If the 2017 sequence is similar, there may still be an M 7 earthquake in the upper plate. Of course, there is also a possiblity of a large subduction zone earthquake here too. We just don’t really have enough information to really know (it is difficult to know, if not impossible, the state of stress on the megathrust fault. this make it impossible to predict if there will be more or larger earthquakes here.).
  • In the upper left corner I include a figure from Lay et al. (2011) that shows the general tectonic setting at subduction zone faults. There are three examples. Lay et al. (2011) modeled the Japan trench subduction zone after the 2011 M 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake and estimated the static stress changes imparted in the adjacent crust as a result of the M 9.0 earthquake. Lay et al. (2011) determined that the downgoing plate to the east of the M 9.0 earthquake experienced an increase in static stress. This was used to support the hypothesis that the M 6.0 earthquake along the outer rise, east of the M 9.0 slip patch, was statically triggered by the M 9.0 earthquake. The two sequences along the southern New Hebrides trench are probably playing out a similar fault-geometry and static stress relation.


  • Here is my poster from the beginning of this sequence.

  • Here is a map from the USGS report (Benz et al., 2011). Read more about this map on the USGS website. Earthquakes are plotted with color related to depth and circle diameter related to magnitude. Today’s M 6.8 earthquake occurred south of cross section G-G’.

  • This is the legend.

  • Here is a cross section showing the seismicity along swatch profile G-G’.

  • Craig et al. (2014) evaluated the historic record of seismicity for subduction zones globally. In particular, the evaluated the relations between upper and lower plate stresses and earthquake types (cogent for the southern New Hebrides trench). Below is a figure from their paper for this part of the world. I include their figure caption below in blockquote.

  • Outer-rise seismicity along the New Hebrides arc. (a) Seismicity and focal mechanisms. Seismicity at the southern end of the arc is dominated by two major outer-rise normal faulting events, and MW 7.6 on 1995 May 16 and an MW 7.1 on 2004 January 3. Earthquakes are included from Chapple & Forsyth (1979); Chinn & Isacks (1983); Liu & McNally (1993). (b) Time versus latitude plot.

  • Here is a summary figure from Craig et al. (2014) that shows different stress configurations possibly existing along subduction zones.

  • Schematic diagram for the factors influencing the depth of the transition from horizontal extension to horizontal compression beneath the outer rise. Slab pull, the interaction of the descending slab with the 660 km discontinuity (or increasing drag from the surround mantle), and variations in the interface stress influence both the bending moment and the in-plane stress. Increases in the angle of slab dip increases the dominance of the bending moment relative to the in-plane stress, and hence moves the depth of transition towards the middle of the mechanical plate from either an shallower or a deeper position. A decrease in slab dip enhances the influence of the in-plane stress, and hence moves the transition further from the middle of the mechanical plate, either deeper for an extensional in-plane stress, or shallower for a compressional in-plane stress. Increased plate age of the incoming plate leads to increases in the magnitude of ridge push and intraplate thermal contraction, increasing the in-plane compressional stress in the plate prior to bending. Dynamic topography of the oceanic plate seawards of the trench can result in either in-plane extension or compression prior to the application of the bending stresses.

  • Here is a great figure from here, the New Caledonian Seismologic Network. This shows how geologists have recorded uplift rates along dip (“perpendicular” to the subduction zone fault). On the left is a map and on the right is a vertical profile showing how these rates of uplift change east-west. This is the upwards flexure related to the outer rise, which causes extension in the upper part of the downgoing/subducting plate.

  • The subduction of the Australian plate under the Vanuatu arc is also accompanied by vertical movements of the lithosphere. Thus, the altitudes recorded by GPS at the level of the Quaternary reef formations that cover the Loyalty Islands (Ouvéa altitude: 46 m, Lifou: 104 m and Maré 138 m) indicate that the Loyalty Islands accompany a bulge of the Australian plate. just before his subduction. Coral reefs that have “recorded” the high historical levels of the sea serve as a reference marker for geologists who map areas in uprising or vertical depression (called uplift and subsidence). Thus, the various studies have shown that the Loyalty Islands, the Isle of Pines but alsothe south of Grande Terre (Yaté region) rise at speeds between 1.2 and 2.5 millimeters per decade.

  • Here are the figures from Richards et al. (2011) with their figure captions below in blockquote.
  • The main tectonic map

  • bathymetry, and major tectonic element map of the study area. The Tonga and Vanuatu subduction systems are shown together with the locations of earthquake epicenters discussed herein. Earthquakes between 0 and 70 km depth have been removed for clarity. Remaining earthquakes are color-coded according to depth. Earthquakes located at 500–650 km depth beneath the North Fiji Basin are also shown. Plate motions for Vanuatu are from the U.S. Geological Survey, and for Tonga from Beavan et al. (2002) (see text for details). Dashed line indicates location of cross section shown in Figure 3. NFB—North Fiji Basin; HFZ—Hunter Fracture Zone.

  • Here is the map showing the current configuration of the slabs in the region.

  • Map showing distribution of slab segments beneath the Tonga-Vanuatu region. West-dipping Pacifi c slab is shown in gray; northeast-dipping Australian slab is shown in red. Three detached segments of Australian slab lie below the North Fiji Basin (NFB). HFZ—Hunter Fracture Zone. Contour interval is 100 km. Detached segments of Australian plate form sub-horizontal sheets located at ~600 km depth. White dashed line shows outline of the subducted slab fragments when reconstructed from 660 km depth to the surface. When all subducted components are brought to the surface, the geometry closely approximates that of the North Fiji Basin.

  • This is the cross section showing the megathrust fault configuration based on seismic tomography and seismicity.

  • Previous interpretation of combined P-wave tomography and seismicity from van der Hilst (1995). Earthquake hypocenters are shown in blue. The previous interpretation of slab structure is contained within the black dashed lines. Solid red lines mark the surface of the Pacifi c slab (1), the still attached subducting Australian slab (2a), and the detached segment of the Australian plate (2b). UM—upper mantle;
    TZ—transition zone; LM—lower mantle.

  • Here is their time step interpretation of the slabs that resulted in the second figure above.

  • Simplifi ed plate tectonic reconstruction showing the progressive geometric evolution of the Vanuatu and Tonga subduction systems in plan view and in cross section. Initiation of the Vanuatu subduction system begins by 10 Ma. Initial detachment of the basal part of the Australian slab begins at ca. 5–4 Ma and then sinking and collision between the detached segment and the Pacifi c slab occur by 3–4 Ma. Initial opening of the Lau backarc also occurred at this time. Between 3 Ma and the present, both slabs have been sinking progressively to their current position. VT—Vitiaz trench; dER—d’Entrecasteaux Ridge.

  • Here is a figure that shows the coulomb stress changes due to the 2011 earthquake. Basically, this shows which locations on the fault where we might expect higher likelihoods of future earthquake slip. I include their figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • Maps of the Coulomb stress change predicted for the joint P wave, Rayleigh wave and continuous GPS inversion in Fig. 2. The margins of the latter fault model are indicated by the box. Two weeks of aftershock locations from the U.S. Geological Survey are superimposed, with symbol sizes scaled relative to seismic magnitude. (a) The Coulomb stress change averaged over depths of 10–15 km for normal faults with the same westward dipping fault plane geometry as the Mw 7.7 outer rise aftershock, for which the global centroid moment tensor mechanism is shown. (b) Similar stress changes for thrust faults with the same geometry as the mainshock, along with the Mw 7.9 thrusting aftershock to the south, for which the global centroid moment tensor is shown.

  • Here is a figure schematically showing how subduction zone earthquakes may increase coulomb stress along the outer rise. The outer rise is a region of the downgoing/subducting plate that is flexing upwards. There are commonly normal faults, sometimes reactivating fracture zone/strike-slip faults, caused by extension along the upper oceanic lithosphere. We call these bending moment normal faults. There was a M 7.1 earthquake on 2013.10.25 that appears to be along one of these faults. I include their figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • Schematic cross-sections of the A) Sanriku-oki, B) Kuril and C) Miyagi-oki subduction zones where great interplate thrust events have been followed by great trench slope or outer rise extensional events (in the first two cases) and concern about that happening in the case of the 2011 event.

  • Here is an animation that shows the seismicity for this region from 1960 – 2016 for earthquakes with magnitudes greater than or equal to 7.0.
  • I include some figures mentioned in my report from 2016.04.28 for a sequence of earthquakes in the same region as today’s earthquake (albeit shallower hypocentral depths), in addition to a plot from Cleveland et al. (2014). In the upper right corner, Cleveland et al. (2014) on the left plot a map showing earthquake epicenters for the time period listed below the plot on the right. On the right is a plot of earthquakes (diameter = magnitude) of earthquakes with latitude on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis. Cleveland et al (2014) discuss these short periods of seismicity that span a certain range of fault length along the New Hebrides Trench in this area. Above is a screen shot image and below is the video.

  • Here is a link to the embedded video below (6 MB mp4)

    References:

  • Benz, H.M., Herman, M., Tarr, A.C., Hayes, G.P., Furlong, K.P., Villaseñor, A., Dart, R.L., and Rhea, S., 2011. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 New Guinea and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-H, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Bird, P., 2003. An updated digital model of plate boundaries in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 4, doi:10.1029/2001GC000252, 52 p.
  • Craig, T.J., Copley, A., and Jackson, J., 2014. A reassessment of outer-rise seismicity and its implications for the mechanics of oceanic lithosphere in Geophysical Journal International, v. 197, p/ 63-89.
  • Geist, E.L., and Parsons, T., 2005, Triggering of tsunamigenic aftershocks from large strike-slip earthquakes: Analysis of the November 2000 New Ireland earthquake sequence: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 6, doi:10.1029/2005GC000935, 18 p. [Download PDF (6.5 MB)]
  • Hayes, G. P., D. J. Wald, and R. L. Johnson (2012), Slab1.0: A three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B01302, doi:10.1029/2011JB008524.
  • Lay, T., and Kanamori, H., 1980, Earthquake doublets in the Solomon Islands: Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, v. 21, p. 283-304.
  • Lay, T., Ammon, C.J., Kanamori, H., Kim, M.J., and Xue, L., 2011. Outer trench-slope faulting and the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake in Earth Planets Space,
    v. 63, p. 713-718.
  • Richards, S., Holm, R., Barber, G., 2011. When slabs collide: A tectonic assessment of deep earthquakes in the Tonga-Vanuatu region in Geology, v. 39, no. 8., p. 787-790
  • Schwartz, S.Y., 1999, Noncharacteristic behavior and complex recurrence of large subduction zone earthquakes: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 104, p. 23,111-123,125.
  • Schwartz, S.Y., Lay, T., and Ruff, L.J., 1989, Source process of the great 1971 Solomon Islands doublet: Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, v. 56, p. 294-310.

Posted in earthquake, education, Extension, geology, pacific, plate tectonics, subduction, tsunami

Earthquake Report: Papua New Guinea!

Well. As I was preparing a job application at the library public wifi (the Airbnb I was staying at did not have wifi in my cabin, nor electricity for that matter), I prepared an interpretive poster for this earthquake. Interestingly, the library prevented any ftp connections, so I had to wait until today to upload my files.

Note: not sure why, but when I prepared this report, I initially entitled it as being along the Tonga subduction zone. This was not correct and I fixed it. There was a recent earthquake along the Tonga subduction zone and I had that on my mind.

This M 6.5 earthquake (here is the USGS website for this earthquake) happened in a region of Papua New Guinea (PNG) that has a long record of different types of tectonic deformation (including subduction, strike-slip, and several fold and thrust belts). To the northwest, in 1998, there was an earthquake that triggered a submarine landslide, which generated a large, devastating, and deadly tsunami. Here is the USGS website for this 1998 M 7.0 earthquake.

There are historic earthquakes to the west of this M 6.5 that are associated with the fold and thrust belt, but this M 6.5 earthquake is too deep to be associated with a possibly eastern extension of this fold and thrust belt. womp womp.

However, there have been a few earthquakes that are more closely (spatially) related to the 2017.11.07 M 6.5 earthquake. On 1986.06.24 there was an M 7.2 earthquake (here is the USGS website for this earthquake) to the southeast. These two earthquakes both have similar fault plane solutions (a moment tensor for the 2017 earthquake and a focal mechanism for the 1986 earthquake) and nearly identical depths. These deep earthquakes are deeper than we would expect for a subduction zone fault, so are possibly related to internal deformation within the downgoing slab. The subduction zone associated with the New Guinea (NG) trench (associated with the 1998 landslide tsunami earthquake) may or may not extend into this region (The Holm et al. (2016) figure below shows it does now). There is a fossil subduction zone (the Melanesian or Manus Trench) to the east of the NG trench, but this is also probably unrelated.

The best candidate is the downgoing slab associated with the New Britain Trench. This subduction zone is formed by the northward motion of the Solomon Sea plate beneath the South Bismarck plate (in the region of New Britain), but to the west, this fault splays into three mapped thrust faults that trend on land in eastern PNG. This is the slab imaged beneath where the epicenters are plotted for both 1986 and 2017 earthquakes. The Holm et al. (2016) figure has an inactive splay that more optimally (geometrically) is suited to fit these two earthquakes. There is a figure in the poster (and plotted below) that shows the geometry of this downgoing slab.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.


I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M ≥ 6.5.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.
  • I include some inset figures.

  • In the upper left corner is a great figure showing the generalized plate tectonic boundaries in this region of the equatorial Pacific Ocean (Holm et al., 2016). I place a blue star in the general location of the M 6.5 earthquake (also plotted in other inset figures).
  • In the lower left corner is another plate tectonic map (Sapiie and Cloos, 2004) showing a slightly different interpretation of the faults in this region.
  • In the upper right corner are two figures from Holm and Richards (2013). Their paper discusses the back-arc spreading in the Bismarck Sea. They use hypocenter data to construct this 3-D model of the slab. On the right is a forecast of how the slab will be consumed along these subduction zones in the future.
  • In the lower right corner is another figure from Holm and Rihards (2013) where they present a low angle oblique view of the slab that they modeled in their paper.
  • To the left of the Holm and Richards figure is a map only has plate motions plotted (from Paul Tregoning at The Australian National University). The map plots, “linear velocities of GPS sites in PNG, showing absolute motions of the numerous tectonic plates.” Go to his website where he presents some related papers.


  • In 2015 there were a few small earthquakes to the northeast of the 1986 and 2017 deep earthquakes, but they were much shallower. However, they show a similarly oriented fault place solution. Though, these 2015 earthquakes are probably associated with the current strain being accumulated and released associated with plate tectonic boundaries (while the 1986 and 2017 deep earthquakes are not; their shared orientation is probably just coincidental?).
  • Here is the report from 2015. Below is the interpretive poster for those earthquakes (note how my posters are seeing a realized improvement over time).

  • Here is the Holm et al. (2016) figure.

  • Topography, bathymetry and regional tectonic setting of New Guinea and Solomon Islands. Arrows indicate rate and direction of plate motion of the Australian and Pacific plates (MORVEL, DeMets et al., 2010); Mamberamo thrust belt, Indonesia (MTB); North Fiji Basin (NFB)

  • Here is the tectonic map figure from Sappie and Cloos (2004). Their work was focused on western PNG, so their interpretations are more detailed there (and perhaps less relevant for us for these eastern PNG earthquakes).

  • Seismotectonic interpretation of New Guinea. Tectonic features: PTFB—Papuan thrust-and-fold belt; RMFZ—Ramu-Markham fault zone; BTFZ—Bewani-Torricelli fault zone; MTFB—Mamberamo thrust-and-fold belt; SFZ—Sorong fault zone; YFZ—Yapen fault zone; RFZ—Ransiki fault zone; TAFZ—Tarera-Aiduna fault zone; WT—Waipona Trough. After Sapiie et al. (1999).

  • This is the two panel figure from Holm and Richards (2013) that shows how the New Britain trench megathrust splays into three thrust faults as this fault system heads onto PNG. They plot active thrust faults as black triangles (with the triangles on the hanging wall side of the fault) and inactive thrust faults as open triangles. So, either the NG trench subduction zone extends further east than is presented in earlier work or the Bundi Fault Zone is the fault associated with this deep seismicity.

  • Topography, bathymetry and major tectonic elements of the study area. (a) Major tectonic boundaries of Papua New Guinea and the western Solomon Islands; CP, Caroline plate; MB, Manus Basin; NBP, North Bismarck plate; NBT, New Britain trench; NGT, New Guinea trench; NST, North Solomon trench; PFTB, Papuan Fold and Thrust Belt; PT, Pocklington trough; RMF, Ramu-Markham Fault; SBP, South Bismarck plate; SCT, San Cristobal trench; SS, Solomon Sea plate; TT, Trobriand trough; WB,Woodlark Basin; WMT,West Melanesian trench. Study area is indicated by rectangle labelled Figure 1b; the other inset rectangle highlights location for subsequent figures. Present day GPS motions of plates are indicated relative to the Australian plate (from Tregoning et al. 1998, 1999; Tregoning 2002; Wallace et al. 2004). (b) Detailed topography, bathymetry and structural elements significant to the South Bismarck region (terms not in common use are referenced); AFB, Aure Fold Belt (Davies 2012); AT, Adelbert Terrane (e.g. Wallace et al. 2004); BFZ, Bundi Fault Zone (Abbott 1995); BSSL, Bismarck Sea Seismic Lineation; CG, Cape Gloucester; FT, Finisterre Terrane; GF, Gogol Fault (Abbott 1995); GP, Gazelle Peninsula; HP, Huon Peninsula; MB, Manus Basin; NB, New Britain; NI, New Ireland; OSF, Owen Stanley Fault; RMF, Ramu-Markham Fault; SS, Solomon Sea; WMR, Willaumez-Manus Rise (Johnson et al. 1979); WT, Wonga Thrust (Abbott et al. 1994); minor strike-slip faults are shown adjacent to Huon Peninsula (Abers & McCaffrey 1994) and in east New Britain, the Gazelle Peninsula (e.g. Madsen & Lindley 1994). Circles indicate centres of Quaternary volcanism of the Bismarck arc. Filled triangles indicate active thrusting or subduction, empty triangles indicate extinct or negligible thrusting or subduction.

  • Here is the slab interpretation for the New Britain region from Holm and Richards, 2013. I include the figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • 3-D model of the Solomon slab comprising the subducted Solomon Sea plate, and associated crust of the Woodlark Basin and Australian plate subducted at the New Britain and San Cristobal trenches. Depth is in kilometres; the top surface of the slab is contoured at 20 km intervals from the Earth’s surface (black) to termination of slabrelated seismicity at approximately 550 km depth (light brown). Red line indicates the locations of the Ramu-Markham Fault (RMF)–New Britain trench (NBT)–San Cristobal trench (SCT); other major structures are removed for clarity; NB, New Britain; NI, New Ireland; SI, Solomon Islands; SS, Solomon Sea; TLTF, Tabar–Lihir–Tanga–Feni arc. See text for details.

  • Here are the forward models for the slab in the New Britain region from Holm and Richards, 2013. I include the figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • Forward tectonic reconstruction of progressive arc collision and accretion of New Britain to the Papua New Guinea margin. (a) Schematic forward reconstruction of New Britain relative to Papua New Guinea assuming continued northward motion of the Australian plate and clockwise rotation of the South Bismarck plate. (b) Cross-sections illustrate a conceptual interpretation of collision between New Britain and Papua New Guinea.

  • Earlier, in other earthquake reports, I have discussed seismicity from 2000-2015 here. The seismicity on the west of this region appears aligned with north-south shortening along the New Britain trench, while seismicity on the east of this region appears aligned with more east-west shortening. Here is a map that I put together where I show these two tectonic domains with the seismicity from this time period (today’s earthquakes are not plotted on this map, but one may see where they might plot).

  • This map shows plate velocities and euler poles for different blocks. I include the figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • Tectonic maps of the New Guinea region. (a) Seismicity, volcanoes, and plate motion vectors. Plate motion vectors relative to the Australian plate are surface velocity models based on GPS data, fault slip rates, and earthquake focal mechanisms (UNAVCO, http://jules.unavco.org/Voyager/Earth). Earthquake data are sourced from the International Seismological Center EHB Bulletin (http://www.isc.ac.uk); data represent events from January 1994 through January 2009 with constrained focal depths. Background image is generated from http://www.geomapapp.org. Abbreviations: AB, Arafura Basin; AT, Aure Trough; AyT, Ayu Trough; BA, Banda arc; BSSL, Bismarck Sea seismic lineation; BH, Bird’s Head; BT, Banda Trench; BTFZ, Bewani-Torricelli fault zone; DD, Dayman Dome; DEI, D’Entrecasteaux Islands; FP, Fly Platform; GOP, Gulf of Papua; HP, Huon peninsula; LA, Louisiade Archipelago; LFZ, Lowlands fault zone; MaT, Manus Trench; ML, Mt. Lamington; MT, Mt. Trafalgar; MuT, Mussau Trough; MV, Mt. Victory; MTB, Mamberamo thrust belt; MVF, Managalase Plateau volcanic field; NBT, New Britain Trench; NBA, New Britain arc; NF, Nubara fault; NGT, New Guinea Trench; OJP, Ontong Java Plateau; OSF, Owen Stanley fault zone; PFTB, Papuan fold-and-thrust belt; PP, Papuan peninsula; PRi, Pocklington Rise; PT, Pocklington Trough; RMF, Ramu-Markham fault; SST, South Solomons Trench; SA, Solomon arc; SFZ, Sorong fault zone; ST, Seram Trench; TFZ, Tarera-Aiduna fault zone; TJ, AUS-WDKPAC triple junction; TL, Tasman line; TT, Trobriand Trough;WD, Weber Deep;WB, Woodlark Basin;WFTB, Western (Irian) fold-and-thrust belt; WR,Woodlark Rift; WRi, Woodlark Rise; WTB, Weyland thrust; YFZ, Yapen fault zone.White box indicates the location shown in Figure 3. (b) Map of plates, microplates, and tectonic blocks and elements of the New Guinea region. Tectonic elements modified after Hill & Hall (2003). Abbreviations: ADB, Adelbert block; AOB, April ultramafics; AUS, Australian plate; BHB, Bird’s Head block; CM, Cyclops Mountains; CWB, Cendrawasih block; CAR, Caroline microplate; EMD, Ertsberg Mining District; FA, Finisterre arc; IOB, Irian ophiolite belt; KBB, Kubor & Bena blocks (including Bena Bena terrane); LFTB, Lengguru fold-and-thrust belt; MA, Mapenduma anticline; MB, Mamberamo Basin block; MO, Marum ophiolite belt; MHS, Manus hotspot; NBS, North Bismarck plate; NGH, New Guinea highlands block; NNG, Northern New Guinea block; OKT, Ok Tedi mining district; PAC, Pacific plate; PIC, Porgera intrusive complex; PSP, Philippine Sea plate; PUB, Papuan Ultramafic Belt ophiolite; SB, Sepik Basin block; SDB, Sunda block; SBS, South Bismarck plate; SIB, Solomon Islands block; WP, Wandamen peninsula; WDK, Woodlark microplate; YQ, Yeleme quarries.

  • This figure incorporates cross sections and map views of various parts of the regional tectonics (Baldwin et al., 2012). These deep earthquakes are nearest the cross section D (though are much deeper than these shallow cross sections). I include the figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • Oblique block diagram of New Guinea from the northeast with schematic cross sections showing the present-day plate tectonic setting. Digital elevation model was generated from http://www.geomapapp.org. Oceanic crust in tectonic cross sections is shown by thick black-and-white hatched lines, with arrows indicating active subduction; thick gray-and-white hatched lines indicate uncertain former subduction. Continental crust, transitional continental crust, and arc-related crust are shown without pattern. Representative geologic cross sections across parts of slices C and D are marked with transparent red ovals and within slices B and E are shown by dotted lines. (i ) Cross section of the Papuan peninsula and D’Entrecasteaux Islands modified from Little et al. (2011), showing the obducted ophiolite belt due to collision of the Australian (AUS) plate with an arc in the Paleogene, with later Pliocene extension and exhumation to form the D’Entrecasteaux Islands. (ii ) Cross section of the Papuan peninsula after Davies & Jaques (1984) shows the Papuan ophiolite thrust over metamorphic rocks of AUS margin affinity. (iii ) Across the Papuan mainland, the cross section after Crowhurst et al. (1996) shows the obducted Marum ophiolite and complex folding and thrusting due to collision of the Melanesian arc (the Adelbert, Finisterre, and Huon blocks) in the Late Miocene to recent. (iv) Across the Bird’s Head, the cross section after Bailly et al. (2009) illustrates deformation in the Lengguru fold-and-thrust belt as a result of Late Miocene–Early Pliocene northeast-southwest shortening, followed by Late Pliocene–Quaternary extension. Abbreviations as in Figure 2, in addition to NI, New Ireland; SI, Solomon Islands; SS, Solomon Sea; (U)HP, (ultra)high-pressure.

References:

Posted in earthquake, education, geology, pacific, plate tectonics

Earthquake Report: Tonga!

Well, I was just getting ready for bed and saw the PTWC email notification. It took a couple minutes before the USGS email notification came through, but the earthquake was already listed on the website. By the time the ENS email came in, the magnitude was adjusted, as well as the location.

This M 6.8 earthquake was originally reported as a deep earthquake at 80 km, but after real people took a look at the data, the depth was also adjusted.

It is interesting that this earthquake happened just a few days after the sequence to the west, though these earthquakes are probably too far away to be related. Here is my report from a couple days ago. I include the interpretive poster from that earthquake below today’s interpretive poster. I use some of the same figures for both of these posters since they are each in a similar region of the world. Then, moments later, there was an M 5.5 in the Loyalty Islands region. Hmmmmm.

Today’s M 6.8 earthquake did occur near the earthquake from 2009 (almost immediately down-dip of the 2009 earthquake), an M 8.1 earthquake in the downgoing slab, that caused a large and damaging tsunami in the Samoa Islands.

  • Here are the USGS websites for the M 6.8 earthquake.
  • 2017.11.04 M 6.8 Tonga
  • Here are the USGS earthquake pages for the earthquakes for which I plot fault plane solutions in the inset figure below.
  • 1981-09-01 M 7.7
  • 1985-06-03 M 6.7
  • 1990-01-04 M 6.5
  • 1993-05-16 M 6.6
  • 1995-04-07 M 7.4
  • 1996-08-05 M 6.7
  • 2009-08-30 M 6.6
  • 2009-09-29 M 8.1
  • 2015-03-30 M 6.5

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.


I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M ≥ 6.5.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.
  • I include some inset figures.

  • In the upper right corner is a map from Benz et al. (2011) that shows seismicity with color representing depth and circle diameter representing magnitude. This report is available online for more information. I include the general location of this M 6.8 earthquake as a blue star. Cross section H-H’ is plotted on the left of the map. I include the location of this x-sec on the main map as a blue line.
  • In the lower left corner are several more cross sections as determined from seismic tomography (de Paor et al., 2012). Seismic tomography is basically an X-ray of Earth’s interior that uses seismic waves rather than X-rays. More on seismic tomography can be found here or here. The cross section A-A’ is shown on the main map as a green line.
  • In the upper left corner is a low-angle oblique view of the megathrust fault (the slab). This is from Green (2003).
  • In the lower left corner I plot the USGS moment tensors (blue) and focal mechanisms (orange) for earthquakes in this region. These earthquakes fit two distinct domains (outlined in dashed white).
    The easternmost quakes are in the downgoing Pacific plate and are the result of extension (either slab tension or due to bending in the upper part of the plate). The westernmost quakes are either near the megathrust (subduction zone) or in the upper plate (most appear to be in the upper plate). Something that all earthquakes share is that their principal strain direction (the orientation of maximum or minimum stress) rotates with the orientation of the subduction zone fault. This may represent strain partitioning at this plate boundary. Basically, thrust earthquakes tend to be oriented perpendicular to the megathrust fault strike, and there are other strike-slip earthquakes that accommodate the non-perpendicular plate motion. There are no examples of these strike-slip earthquakes here. The subduction zone here is quite complicated as there is backarc spreading and a complex interaction between mantle flow at the edge of the subduction zone and a hotspot plume.


  • Here is the oblique view of the slab from Green (2003).

  • Earthquakes and subducted slabs beneath the Tonga–Fiji area. The subducting slab and
    detached slab are defined by the historic earthquakes in this region: the steeply dipping surface descending from the Tonga Trench marks the currently active subduction zone, and the surface lying mostly between 500 and 680 km, but rising to 300 km in the east, is a relict from an old subduction zone that descended from the fossil Vitiaz Trench. The locations of the mainshocks of the two Tongan earthquake sequences discussed by Tibi et al. are marked in yellow (2002 sequence) and orange (1986 series). Triggering mainshocks are denoted by stars; triggered mainshocks by circles. The 2002 sequence lies wholly in the currently subducting slab (and slightly extends the earthquake distribution in it),whereas the 1986 mainshock is in that slab but the triggered series is located in the detached slab,which apparently contains significant amounts of metastable olivine

  • Here is a great figure showing an interpretation of how the mantle flow and hotspot plume may interact here (Chang et al., 2015).

  • Illustrated time history of the plume–slab interaction and a cartoon for summarizing current features. (a) The Samoan plume is generated at the Mega ULVZ19 at the core–mantle boundary and is ascending to the surface. (b) The Samoan plume collided with the Tonga slab at the transition zone at about 10 Myr. (c) The upward stress by the collision has caused the stagnant slab and intense seismicity (cross marks), which is further enhanced by fast slab retreat (red arrow) due to the subduction of the Hikurangi plateau. (d) A schematic diagram illustrating the slab–plume interaction beneath the Tonga–Kermadec arc. Cyan lines on the surface show trenches, as shown in Fig. 1. HP, Hikurangi Plateau; KT, Kermadec Trench; NHT, New Hebrides Trench; TT, Tonga Trench; VT, Vitiaz Trench. The Samoan plume originates from a Mega ULVZ at the core–mantle boundary (CMB). The buoyancy caused by large
    stress from the plume at the bottom of the Tonga slab may contribute to the slab stagnation within the mantle transition zone, while the Kermadec slab is penetrating into the lower mantle directly. At the northern end of the Tonga slab, plume materials migrate into the mantle wedge, facilitated by strong toroidal flow around the slab edge induced by fast slab retreat.

  • Here are figures from Richards et al. (2011) with their figure captions below in blockquote.
  • The main tectonic map

  • bathymetry, and major tectonic element map of the study area. The Tonga and Vanuatu subduction systems are shown together with the locations of earthquake epicenters discussed herein. Earthquakes between 0 and 70 km depth have been removed for clarity. Remaining earthquakes are color-coded according to depth. Earthquakes located at 500–650 km depth beneath the North Fiji Basin are also shown. Plate motions for Vanuatu are from the U.S. Geological Survey, and for Tonga from Beavan et al. (2002) (see text for details). Dashed line indicates location of cross section shown in Figure 3. NFB—North Fiji Basin; HFZ—Hunter Fracture Zone.

  • Here is the map showing the current configuration of the slabs in the region.

  • Map showing distribution of slab segments beneath the Tonga-Vanuatu region. West-dipping Pacifi c slab is shown in gray; northeast-dipping Australian slab is shown in red. Three detached segments of Australian slab lie below the North Fiji Basin (NFB). HFZ—Hunter Fracture Zone. Contour interval is 100 km. Detached segments of Australian plate form sub-horizontal sheets located at ~600 km depth. White dashed line shows outline of the subducted slab fragments when reconstructed from 660 km depth to the surface. When all subducted components are brought to the surface, the geometry closely approximates that of the North Fiji Basin.

  • This is the cross section showing the megathrust fault configuration based on seismic tomography and seismicity.

  • Previous interpretation of combined P-wave tomography and seismicity from van der Hilst (1995). Earthquake hypocenters are shown in blue. The previous interpretation of slab structure is contained within the black dashed lines. Solid red lines mark the surface of the Pacifi c slab (1), the still attached subducting Australian slab (2a), and the detached segment of the Australian plate (2b). UM—upper mantle;
    TZ—transition zone; LM—lower mantle.

  • Here is their time step interpretation of the slabs that resulted in the second figure above.

  • Simplifi ed plate tectonic reconstruction showing the progressive geometric evolution of the Vanuatu and Tonga subduction systems in plan view and in cross section. Initiation of the Vanuatu subduction system begins by 10 Ma. Initial detachment of the basal part of the Australian slab begins at ca. 5–4 Ma and then sinking and collision between the detached segment and the Pacifi c slab occur by 3–4 Ma. Initial opening of the Lau backarc also occurred at this time. Between 3 Ma and the present, both slabs have been sinking progressively to their current position. VT—Vitiaz trench; dER—d’Entrecasteaux Ridge.

Posted in earthquake, education, geology, pacific, plate tectonics

#Earthquake Report: Loyalty Islands

BOO! Happy Halloween/Samhain….

I am on the road and worked on this report while on layovers with intermittent internets access… Though this earthquake sequence spanned a day or so, so it is good that it took me a while to compile my figures.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.


I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M > 7.5. I also plot the moment tensors for some earthquakes to the southeast of the current sequence. Also, there was a sequence in December of 2016. Here is my report for that series of earthquakes. There are other earthquakes in this region listed at the bottom of this page above the references. Note the special symbology that I used for the 1920 earthquake epicenter.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely. The moment tensor shows northeast-southwest compression, perpendicular to the convergence at this plate boundary. Most of the recent seismicity in this region is associated with convergence along the New Britain trench or the South Solomon trench.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault. The hypocentral depth plots this close to the location of the fault as mapped by Hayes et al. (2012). The M 6.8 is plotted really close to the megathrust and is also very shallow. The depth is probably not very well constrained due to the geometry and lack of seismometer coverage in the oceanic setting.
  • Here is the USGS page for the main earthquake in this sequence.
  • 2017.10.31 M 6.8
  • I include some inset figures.

  • In the upper right corner I include a figure from Richards et al. (2011) that shows the major plate boundary faults in the region. They also plot seismicity with color representing depth. This allows us to visualize the subduction zone fault as it dips (eastward for the New Hebrides and westwards for the Tonga subduction zones). The cross section in the panel on the right is designated by the black dashed line. I also place this line as a dashed green line in the interpretive poster below. I place a yellow star in the general location of the M 6.8 earthquake.
  • In the upper right corner I include the Richards et al. (2011) cross section showing earthquake hypocenters as colored circles and the megathrust subduction zone faults as red lines.
  • To the left of the cross section is a panel that shows how Richards et al. (2011) hypothesize about how the New Hebrides subducting slab (Australia plate) and the Fiji Basin (the upper plate) interacted to create the configuration of the plates and faults in this region. Note how shallow the New Hebrides fault is.
  • In the lower left corner I plot the USGS moment tensors for the main earthquakes from this sequence. Note how the mainshock is a thrust (compressional) earthquake, while the earthquakes in the downgoing Australia plate, to the west of the subduction zone, are mostly normal (extensional) earthquakes. There are many examples of this globally (Samoa, Marianas, Kuril, etc.). I will follow up by linking other reports of mine that discuss these at a later time. I am working on very little sleep from my travels.


  • Here is my interpretive poster for the 2016.12.08 earthquake.

  • Here is an animation that shows the seismicity for this region from 1960 – 2016 for earthquakes with magnitudes greater than or equal to 7.0.
  • I include some figures mentioned in my report from 2016.04.28 for a sequence of earthquakes in the same region as today’s earthquake (albeit shallower hypocentral depths), in addition to a plot from Cleveland et al. (2014). In the upper right corner, Cleveland et al. (2014) on the left plot a map showing earthquake epicenters for the time period listed below the plot on the right. On the right is a plot of earthquakes (diameter = magnitude) of earthquakes with latitude on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis. Cleveland et al (2014) discuss these short periods of seismicity that span a certain range of fault length along the New Hebrides Trench in this area. Above is a screen shot image and below is the video.

  • Here is a link to the embedded video below (6 MB mp4)
  • Here is a map from the USGS report (Benz et al., 2011). Read more about this map on the USGS website. Earthquakes are plotted with color related to depth and circle diameter related to magnitude. Today’s M 6.8 earthquake occurred south of cross section G-G’.

  • This is the legend.

  • Here is a cross section showing the seismicity along swatch profile G-G’.

  • Here are the figures from Richards et al. (2011) with their figure captions below in blockquote.
  • The main tectonic map

  • bathymetry, and major tectonic element map of the study area. The Tonga and Vanuatu subduction systems are shown together with the locations of earthquake epicenters discussed herein. Earthquakes between 0 and 70 km depth have been removed for clarity. Remaining earthquakes are color-coded according to depth. Earthquakes located at 500–650 km depth beneath the North Fiji Basin are also shown. Plate motions for Vanuatu are from the U.S. Geological Survey, and for Tonga from Beavan et al. (2002) (see text for details). Dashed line indicates location of cross section shown in Figure 3. NFB—North Fiji Basin; HFZ—Hunter Fracture Zone.

  • Here is the map showing the current configuration of the slabs in the region.

  • Map showing distribution of slab segments beneath the Tonga-Vanuatu region. West-dipping Pacifi c slab is shown in gray; northeast-dipping Australian slab is shown in red. Three detached segments of Australian slab lie below the North Fiji Basin (NFB). HFZ—Hunter Fracture Zone. Contour interval is 100 km. Detached segments of Australian plate form sub-horizontal sheets located at ~600 km depth. White dashed line shows outline of the subducted slab fragments when reconstructed from 660 km depth to the surface. When all subducted components are brought to the surface, the geometry closely approximates that of the North Fiji Basin.

  • This is the cross section showing the megathrust fault configuration based on seismic tomography and seismicity.

  • Previous interpretation of combined P-wave tomography and seismicity from van der Hilst (1995). Earthquake hypocenters are shown in blue. The previous interpretation of slab structure is contained within the black dashed lines. Solid red lines mark the surface of the Pacifi c slab (1), the still attached subducting Australian slab (2a), and the detached segment of the Australian plate (2b). UM—upper mantle;
    TZ—transition zone; LM—lower mantle.

  • Here is their time step interpretation of the slabs that resulted in the second figure above.

  • Simplifi ed plate tectonic reconstruction showing the progressive geometric evolution of the Vanuatu and Tonga subduction systems in plan view and in cross section. Initiation of the Vanuatu subduction system begins by 10 Ma. Initial detachment of the basal part of the Australian slab begins at ca. 5–4 Ma and then sinking and collision between the detached segment and the Pacifi c slab occur by 3–4 Ma. Initial opening of the Lau backarc also occurred at this time. Between 3 Ma and the present, both slabs have been sinking progressively to their current position. VT—Vitiaz trench; dER—d’Entrecasteaux Ridge.

  • Here is a screenshot of my seat’s screen showing where my plane flight was today (last night). I actually flew right overhead of these earthquakes! Interestingly, I was on a ship collecting piston cores for a seismoturbidite study offshore the North Island last year when the M 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake ruptured. I did not feel the earthquakes in either case (these Halloween earthquakes nor the Kaikoura earthquakes.


    References:

  • Benz, H.M., Herman, M., Tarr, A.C., Hayes, G.P., Furlong, K.P., Villaseñor, A., Dart, R.L., and Rhea, S., 2011. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 New Guinea and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-H, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Bird, P., 2003. An updated digital model of plate boundaries in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 4, doi:10.1029/2001GC000252, 52 p.
  • Geist, E.L., and Parsons, T., 2005, Triggering of tsunamigenic aftershocks from large strike-slip earthquakes: Analysis of the November 2000 New Ireland earthquake sequence: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 6, doi:10.1029/2005GC000935, 18 p. [Download PDF (6.5 MB)]
  • Hayes, G. P., D. J. Wald, and R. L. Johnson (2012), Slab1.0: A three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B01302, doi:10.1029/2011JB008524.
  • Lay, T., and Kanamori, H., 1980, Earthquake doublets in the Solomon Islands: Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, v. 21, p. 283-304.
  • Richards, S., Holm, R., Barber, G., 2011. When slabs collide: A tectonic assessment of deep earthquakes in the Tonga-Vanuatu region in Geology, v. 39, no. 8., p. 787-790
  • Schwartz, S.Y., 1999, Noncharacteristic behavior and complex recurrence of large subduction zone earthquakes: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 104, p. 23,111-123,125.
  • Schwartz, S.Y., Lay, T., and Ruff, L.J., 1989, Source process of the great 1971 Solomon Islands doublet: Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, v. 56, p. 294-310.

Posted in earthquake, Extension, geology, pacific, plate tectonics

Earthquake Report: Chiapas Earthquake Update #2

Well, we had a really interesting earthquake today. There was a M 6.1 earthquake in the North America plate (NAP) to the north of the sequence offshore of Chiapas, with the M 8.1 mainshock. Here is the USGS website for the M 6.1 earthquake. There was also an M 5.8 earthquake that was a more typical aftershock (USGS website).

Why is this earthquake interesting? It is outside the region of aftershocks from the M 8.1 earthquake and it is in the upper plate (the NAP). This is not altogether groundbreaking (pardon the pun) as there are many examples of earthquakes in one plate triggering earthquakes in other plates. For example, the recent sequence just to the south of the M 8.1 sequence (which may have led partly to the M 8.1 earthquake).

This earthquake also triggered (sorry for the pun, another one) a debate about the difference between triggered earthquakes and aftershocks. This discussion is largely semantic and does not really matter from a natural hazards perspective. The rocks behave to physics, not how we classify them. So, we don’t need to get caught up in this lexicon (as long as we all have a general understanding of what is happening). In the classic sense, I interpret this M 6.1 (and the few nearby earthquakes) to be triggered, but they are in the region that may have an increased coulomb stress.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I also include USGS epicenters from 1917-2017 for magnitudes M ≥ 8.0. I include fault plane solutions for the 1985 and 1995 earthquakes (along with the MMI contours for those earthquakes, see below for a discussion of MMI contours).

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the left center I include a generalized plate tectonic map from Wikimedia Creative Commons here.
  • In the lower left corner I include a map from Dr. Jascha Polet. Dr. Polet plots focal mechanisms for historic earthquakes. Dr. Polet notes the M 8.1, M7.1, M 6.1, and M 5.8 earthquakes too. Purple dots are epicenters after the M 8.1 earthquake and black dots are SSN (the Mexico seismic network data).
  • In the upper right corner is a map and cross section from Dr. Gavin Hayes. The upper cross section, oriented perpendicular to the subduction zone fault, shows focal mechanisms. Note how the M 8.1 (large green symbol) is in the downgoing Cocos plate and the M 6,.1 (small red symbol at about 300 km) is in the North America plate.
  • In the upper left corner is a figure Dr. Hayes also prepared. This shows the change in static coulomb stress associated with the M 8.1 earthquake. Tremblor prepared this analysis and I presented that in the M 7.1 earthquake report here. Basically, areas of warm color show an increased stress and regions of cool color show a decreased stress. So, areas in warm color are more likely to trigger an earthquake. Though this is a simple run as different faults can respond differently.


  • Here is the initial report poster as presented in my initial Earthquake Report here.

  • Here is the update #1 report poster as presented in my initial Earthquake Report here.

  • Here is the update #1 report poster for the M 7.1 Puebla, Mexico earthquake (which shows the coulomb stress modeling from Tremblor).

  • Here is Dr. Polet’s tweet of this map.
  • AND an updated map and cross section.
  • Here is Dr. Hayes’ tweet of his map and cross section.
  • Here is Dr. Hayes’ tweet of his static coulomb change map.
  • The discussion about what is a triggered earthquake and what is an aftershock, as I mentioned above, is the topic of discussion between experts in the field. The debate will probably be enduring for a quite a while, especially since classification systems are a social construct and have no real basis in reality (or physics). Classification systems are an excellent example of how science is subjective (science is fundamentally subjective, but that is a longer discussion, read some Karl Popper for more insight). This discussion led me to a web post following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake sequence. Here is a website with one view on this debate, prepared by Dr. Chris Rowan. I present two of their figures below.


References:

  • Benz, H.M., Dart, R.L., Villaseñor, Antonio, Hayes, G.P., Tarr, A.C., Furlong, K.P., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 a. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Mexico and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-F, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Benz, H.M., Tarr, A.C., Hayes, G.P., Villaseñor, Antonio, Furlong, K.P., Dart, R.L., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 b. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Caribbean plate and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-A, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Franco, A., C. Lasserre H. Lyon-Caen V. Kostoglodov E. Molina M. Guzman-Speziale D. Monterosso V. Robles C. Figueroa W. Amaya E. Barrier L. Chiquin S. Moran O. Flores J. Romero J. A. Santiago M. Manea V. C. Manea, 2012. Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador in Geophysical Journal International., v. 189, no. 3, p. 1223-1236. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05390.x
  • Franco, S.I., Kostoglodov, V., Larson, K.M., Manea, V.C>, Manea, M., and Santiago, J.A., 2005. Propagation of the 2001–2002 silent earthquake and interplate coupling in the Oaxaca subduction zone, Mexico in Earth Planets Space, v. 57., p. 973-985.
  • Garcia-Casco, A., Projenza, J.A., Iturralde-Vinent, M.A., 2011. Subduction Zones of the Caribbean: the sedimentary, magmatic, metamorphic and ore-deposit records UNESCO/iugs igcp Project 546 Subduction Zones of the Caribbean in Geologica Acta, v. 9, no., 3-4, p. 217-224
  • Hayes, G. P., D. J. Wald, and R. L. Johnson, 2012. Slab1.0: A three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B01302, doi:10.1029/2011JB008524.
  • Lay et al., 2011. Outer trench-slope faulting and the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 713-718.
  • Manea, M., and Manea, V.C., 2014. On the origin of El Chichón volcano and subduction of Tehuantepec Ridge: A geodynamical perspective in JGVR, v. 175, p. 459-471.
  • Mann, P., 2007, Overview of the tectonic history of northern Central America, in Mann, P., ed., Geologic and tectonic development of the Caribbean plate boundary in northern Central America: Geological Society of America Special Paper 428, p. 1–19, doi: 10.1130/2007.2428(01). For
  • McCann, W.R., Nishenko S.P., Sykes, L.R., and Krause, J., 1979. Seismic Gaps and Plate Tectonics” Seismic Potential for Major Boundaries in Pageoph, v. 117
  • Symithe, S., E. Calais, J. B. de Chabalier, R. Robertson, and M. Higgins, 2015. Current block motions and strain accumulation on active faults in the Caribbean in J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, v. 120, p. 3748–3774, doi:10.1002/2014JB011779.

Posted in earthquake, education, Extension, geology, mexico, pacific, plate tectonics

Earthquake Report: Mendocino fault! (northern California)

I was driving around Eureka today, running to the appliance center to get an appliance (heheh). I got a message from a long time held friend (who lives in Salinas, CA). They asked me if I was OK, given that there was an earthquake up here. I thought I had not felt it because I was driving around. However, after looking at the USGS website, I learned the earthquake happened earlier, while I was back working on my house. The main reason I did not feel it is because it was too far away.

Once I got home, after work, I noticed that lots of people were discussing how they were confused about the earthquake notifications from the USGS. Apparently, there were two M 5.X earthquakes in the USGS earthquake online system for a while. Then there was one. This is a common occurrence and I prepared an explanation for some people Here is what I wrote for these people on social media:

this happens regularly. earthquake notifications are automatic as epicenter locations are identified from incoming seismic waves in the seismic network. sometimes the named arrivals (eg. p wave, s wave, and the many other arrivals) are miss-correlated between stations. this miss-correlation then leads to earthquakes in the database that are not real.

seismologists are monitoring the process and review these data for quality, looking for mistakes, and refining magnitude estimates, moment tensor and focal mechanism solutions, location estimates, casualty estimages (PAGER alerts), and all the derivative data products (intensity, PGA, PGV, etc. maps and data).

sometimes these earthquakes are from data in the same location as the real earthquake (like today) and sometimes they are “picked” from seismic data from remote earthquakes.

some of these earthquakes are listed here:
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/errata.php

Today’s M 5.7 earthquake was along the western part of the Mendocino fault (MF), a right-lateral (dextral) transform plate boundary. This plate boundary connects the Gorda ridge and Juan de Fuca rise spreading centers with their counterparts in the Gulf of California, with the San Andreas strike-slip fault system. Transform plate boundaries are defined that they are strike-slip and that they connect spreading ridges. In this sense of the definition, the Mendocino fault and the San Andreas fault are part of the same system. Here is the USGS website for this earthquake.

See the figures from Rollins and Stein (2010) below. More on earthquakes in this region can be found in Earthquake Reports listed at the bottom of this page above the appendices.

The San Andreas fault is a right-lateral strike-slip transform plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates. The plate boundary is composed of faults that are parallel to sub-parallel to the SAF and extend from the west coast of CA to the Wasatch fault (WF) system in central Utah (the WF runs through Salt Lake City and is expressed by the mountain range on the east side of the basin that Salt Lake City is built within).

The three main faults in the region north of San Francisco are the SAF, the MF, and the Bartlett Springs fault (BSF). I also place a graphical depiction of the USGS moment tensor for this earthquake. The SAF, MF, and BSF are all right lateral strike-slip fault systems. There are no active faults mapped in the region of Sunday’s epicenter, but I interpret this earthquake to have right-lateral slip. Without more seismicity or mapped faults to suggest otherwise, this is a reasonable interpretation.

The Cascadia subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary where the Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates (JDFP and GP, respectively) subduct norteastwardly beneath the North America plate at rates ranging from 29- to 45-mm/yr. The Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates are formed at the Juan de Fuca Ridge and Gorda Rise spreading centers respectively. More about the CSZ can be found here.

There was a good sized (M 6.5) MF earthquake late last year on 2016.12.08. I present my poster for that earthquake below. Here is my report for that earthquake. Here is the updated report.

Below I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I use the USGS Quaternary fault and fold database for the faults.

  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (McCrory et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

This is a preliminary report and I hope to prepare some updates as I collect more information.

    I have placed several inset figures.

  • In the upper right corner is a map of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) and regional tectonic plate boundary faults. This is modified from several sources (Chaytor et al., 2004; Nelson et al., 2004). I placed a blue star in the general location of today’s M 5.7 earthquake.
  • Below the CSZ map is an illustration modified from Plafker (1972). This figure shows how a subduction zone deforms between (interseismic) and during (coseismic) earthquakes. Today’s earthquake did not occur along the CSZ, so did not produce crustal deformation like this. However, it is useful to know this when studying the CSZ.
  • In the lower left corner is a figure from Rollins and Stein (2010). In their paper they discuss how static coulomb stress changes from earthquakes may impart (or remove) stress from adjacent crust/faults. This map shows the major earthquakes that have occurred in this region, prior to their publication in 2010. I place a blue star in the general location of today’s earthquake.
  • Above the Rollins and Stein (2010) map are two illustrations showing the difference between a right-lateral and a left-lateral strike slip fault. This is from California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
  • To the right of the Rollins and Stein (2010) map, is a generalized illustration showing an interpretation of the results from these authors. They suggest that, for a variety of earthquake sources in this region, which types of faults have inhibited or promoted earthquake likelihood. The relevant part is C, which tests whether there is an increased or decreased likelihood (chance) of an earthquake on the left-lateral strike-slip faults in the Gorda plate. Based upon today’s M 5.7, there is a slight increase in the chance of a Gorda plate earthquake to the northwest of today’s M 5.7 earthquake. This is the distant side of the M 5.7 earthquake, so any potential GP earthquake would be further away.
    • In the upper right corner is a figure that many people in Humboldt and Del Norte counties might be interested in (the two most northwesterly counties in CA). These two panels both show the same general result (as relevant to this discussion), the increased or decreased chance of an earthquake on two types of faults (north of the dashed line, the chance on GP left-lateral faults; south of dashed line, the chance on the MF. The region of this figure is outlined in dashed white transparent box on the main poster. We can see that the CSZ is just to the east of this figure. People always want to know if there is an increased chance of a megathrust earthquake on the CSZ. This M 5.7 will not have a direct impact upon the CSZ. Over time, earthquakes like this actually bring the CSZ closer to an earthquake (they do not relieve stress, but increase it). But the deformation of the Gorda and Pacific plates is localized near the earthquake. So, it does not change the stress on the megathrust. But, hundreds of earthquakes like this, over time, do increase the stress on the megathrust.
    • The figure here helps us evaluate this concept for this M 5.7 earthquake. The 1994 earthquake, represented in this figure, caused an increase in stress along faults generally in the region of this figure (extending outwards more a little to the south, less more to the west, and very little more to the north and east. The take away is that the 1994 did not change the stress on faults very much in the region of the megathrust. Because today’s M 5.7 earthquake is even further to the west, there is not a possibility that this M 5.7 had any affect on the megathrust.


  • Here is the 2016.12.08 earthquake report poster from this report.

  • For more on the graphical representation of moment tensors and focal mechnisms, check this IRIS video out:
  • Here is a fantastic infographic from Frisch et al. (2011). This figure shows some examples of earthquakes in different plate tectonic settings, and what their fault plane solutions are. There is a cross section showing these focal mechanisms for a thrust or reverse earthquake. The upper right corner includes my favorite figure of all time. This shows the first motion (up or down) for each of the four quadrants. This figure also shows how the amplitude of the seismic waves are greatest (generally) in the middle of the quadrant and decrease to zero at the nodal planes (the boundary of each quadrant).

  • Here is a map from Rollins and Stein, showing their interpretations of different historic earthquakes in the region. This was published in response to the January 2010 Gorda plate earthquake. The faults are from Chaytor et al. (2004). The 1980, 1992, 1994, 2005, and 2010 earthquakes are plotted and labeled. I did not mention the 2010 earthquake, but it most likely was just like 1980 and 2005, a left-lateral strike-slip earthquake on a northeast striking fault.

  • Tectonic configuration of the Gorda deformation zone and locations and source models for 1976–2010 M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes. Letters designate chronological order of earthquakes (Table 1 and Appendix A). Plate motion vectors relative to the Pacific Plate (gray arrows in main diagram) are from Wilson [1989], with Cande and Kent’s [1995] timescale correction.

  • Here is the Rollins and Stein (2010) figure that is in the report above. I include their figure caption as blockquote below.

  • Coulomb stress changes imparted by our models of (a) a bilateral rupture and (b) a unilateral eastward rupture for the 1994 Mw = 7.0 Mendocino Fault Zone earthquake to the epicenters of the 1995 Mw = 6.6 southern Gorda zone earthquake (N) and the 2000 Mw = 5.9 Mendocino Fault Zone earthquake (O). Calculation depth is 5 km.

  • Here is a large scale map of the 1994 earthquake swarm. The mainshock epicenter is a black star and epicenters are denoted as white circles.

  • Here is a plot of focal mechanisms from the Dengler et al. (1995) paper in California Geology.

  • In this map below, I label a number of other significant earthquakes in this Mendocino triple junction region. Another historic right-lateral earthquake on the Mendocino fault system was in 1994. There was a series of earthquakes possibly along the easternmost section of the Mendocino fault system in late January 2015, here is my post about that earthquake series.

  • The Gorda and Juan de Fuca plates subduct beneath the North America plate to form the Cascadia subduction zone fault system. In 1992 there was a swarm of earthquakes with the magnitude Mw 7.2 Mainshock on 4/25. Initially this earthquake was interpreted to have been on the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ). The moment tensor shows a compressional mechanism. However the two largest aftershocks on 4/26/1992 (Mw 6.5 and Mw 6.7), had strike-slip moment tensors. These two aftershocks align on what may be the eastern extension of the Mendocino fault.
  • There have been several series of intra-plate earthquakes in the Gorda plate. Two main shocks that I plot of this type of earthquake are the 1980 (Mw 7.2) and 2005 (Mw 7.2) earthquakes. I place orange lines approximately where the faults are that ruptured in 1980 and 2005. These are also plotted in the Rollins and Stein (2010) figure above. The Gorda plate is being deformed due to compression between the Pacific plate to the south and the Juan de Fuca plate to the north. Due to this north-south compression, the plate is deforming internally so that normal faults that formed at the spreading center (the Gorda Rise) are reactivated as left-lateral strike-slip faults. In 2014, there was another swarm of left-lateral earthquakes in the Gorda plate. I posted some material about the Gorda plate setting on this page.
  • There are three types of earthquakes, strike-slip, compressional (reverse or thrust, depending upon the dip of the fault), and extensional (normal). Here is are some animations of these three types of earthquake faults. Many of the earthquakes people are familiar with in the Mendocino triple junction region are either compressional or strike slip. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This figure shows what a transform plate boundary fault is. Looking down from outer space, the crust on either side of the fault moves side-by-side. When one is standing on the ground, on one side of the fault, looking across the fault as it moves… If the crust on the other side of the fault moves to the right, the fault is a “right lateral” strike slip fault. The Mendocino and San Andreas faults are right-lateral (dextral) strike-slip faults. I believe this is from Pearson Higher Ed.

Update

  • Here is a video of the seismograph for this M 5.7 earthquake. The video was captured by Cindy Scammell, an undergraduate student at the Humboldt State University, Department of Geology. She is lovingly caring for her newborn. Here is a link to download the video. (3 MB mp4)
  • Abbreviations
  • BSF – Bartlett Springs fault
  • CA – California
  • CSZ – Cascadia subduction zone
  • GP – Gorda plate
  • JDFP – Juan de Fuca plate
  • MF – Mendocino fault
  • MMI – Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale
  • SAF – San Andreas fault
  • USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
  • WF – Wasatch fault

    References

  • Atwater, B.F., Musumi-Rokkaku, S., Satake, K., Tsuju, Y., Eueda, K., and Yamaguchi, D.K., 2005. The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America, USGS Professional Paper 1707, USGS, Reston, VA, 144 pp.
  • Chaytor, J.D., Goldfinger, C., Dziak, R.P., and Fox, C.G., 2004. Active deformation of the Gorda plate: Constraining deformation models with new geophysical data: Geology v. 32, p. 353-356.
  • Dengler, L.A., Moley, K.M., McPherson, R.C., Pasyanos, M., Dewey, J.W., and Murray, M., 1995. The September 1, 1994 Mendocino Fault Earthquake, California Geology, Marc/April 1995, p. 43-53.
  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
  • Geist, E.L. and Andrews D.J., 2000. Slip rates on San Francisco Bay area faults from anelastic deformation of the continental lithosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 105, no. B11, p. 25,543-25,552.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1990. Quaternary deformation, in Wallace, R.E. (ed.), 1990, The San Andreas Fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, online at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1990/1515/
  • McCrory, P.A.,. Blair, J.L., Waldhauser, F., kand Oppenheimer, D.H., 2012. Juan de Fuca slab geometry and its relation to Wadati-Benioff zone seismicity in JGR, v. 117, B09306, doi:10.1029/2012JB009407.
  • McLaughlin, R.J., Sarna-Wojcicki, A.M., Wagner, D.L., Fleck, R.J., Langenheim, V.E., Jachens, R.C., Clahan, K., and Allen, J.R., 2012. Evolution of the Rodgers Creek–Maacama right-lateral fault system and associated basins east of the northward-migrating Mendocino Triple Junction, northern California in Geosphere, v. 8, no. 2., p. 342-373.
  • Nelson, A.R., Asquith, A.C., and Grant, W.C., 2004. Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the Past 2000 Years at the Salmon River Estuary, Central Oregon Coast, USA: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 94, No. 4, pp. 1276–1292
  • Rollins, J.C. and Stein, R.S., 2010. Coulomb stress interactions among M ≥ 5.9 earthquakes in the Gorda deformation zone and on the Mendocino Fault Zone, Cascadia subduction zone, and northern San Andreas Fault: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 115, B12306, doi:10.1029/2009JB007117, 2010.
  • Stoffer, P.W., 2006, Where’s the San Andreas Fault? A guidebook to tracing the fault on public lands in the San Francisco Bay region: U.S. Geological Survey General Interest Publication 16, 123 p., online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2006/16/
  • Wallace, Robert E., ed., 1990, The San Andreas fault system, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1515, 283 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1988/1434/].

Posted in cascadia, earthquake, education, geology, gorda, HSU, mendocino, strike-slip, Transform

Earthquake Report: Puebla, Mexico Update #1

Well, the responses of people who are in the midst of a deadly disaster have been inspiring, bringing tears to my eyes often. Watching people searching and helping find survivors. This deadly earthquake brings pause to all who are paying attention. May we learn from this disaster with the hopes that others will suffer less from these lessons.

I have been discussing this earthquake with other experts, both online (i.e. the twitterverse, where most convo happens these days) and offline. Many of these experts are presenting their interpretations of this earthquake as it may help us learn about plate tectonics. While many of us are interested in learning these technical details, I can only hope that we seek a similar goal, to reduce future suffering. Plate tectonics is a young science and we have an ultra short observation period (given that the recurrence of earthquakes can be centuries to millenia, it may take centuries or more to fully understand these processes).

Here I present a review of the material that I have seen in the past day and how I interpret these data. The main focus of the poster is a comparison of ground shaking for three earthquakes. Also of interest is the ongoing discussion about how the 2019.09.08 M 8.1 Chiapas Earthquake and this M 7.1 Puebla Earthquake relate to each other. My initial interpretation holds, that the temporal relations between these earthquakes is coincidental (but we now have the analysis to support this interpretation!).

  • There are some reasons why these earthquakes are unrelated.
    1. They are too distant (static triggering is often limited to 1-2 fault lengths from the first earthquake).
    2. The Cocos plate (CP) changes shape between these two earthquakes, so it is complicated. The CP dips at a steep angle in the Chiapas region, while it dips at a shallow angle (about flat in places) further north. The Tehuantepec Ridge (TR) has an age offset and this may affect how the CP behaves differently on either side of the TR (mostly a fracture zone, but I need to look into this more, it may be thickened crust for some reason other than simply due to the fracture zone here).
    3. Dynamic triggering is when faults slip because they have increased stress as seismic waves travel through them. There is some work suggesting that these seismic waves can change the fluid pressures for a transient time period, possibly triggering earthquakes for a period after the seismic waves have already passed. The M 7.1 did not happen while the seismic waves were traveling following the M 8.1, so the M 7.1 is probably not due to dynamic triggering.
  • There is one major reason the ground shaking is amplified in the region of Mexico City. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the first peoples here lived at the shores of a large lake. They farmed on floating islands made of reeds and other material. Eventually the lake filled with sediment and turned into land, until the lake was gone. Given that Mexico City has the largest population of any city on Earth, as it was developed, the ground water was probably drained to facilitate the construction of large buildings (but I don’t know as much about this part of the history). I include a video about why water saturated sediments (i.e. sand and mud) can amplify seismic waves and intensify ground shaking.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the USGS seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I also include USGS epicenters from 1917-2017 for magnitudes M ≥ 7.0. I include the USGS fault plane solution for the 1985 earthquake. I also include the USGS moment tensor for the 2017.09.08 M 8.1 earthquake.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner I include a generalized plate tectonic map from Wikimedia Creative Commons here.
  • In the upper right corner are two map insets. The upper one is a map that includes the USGS MMI contours for the M 7.1 earthquake and the lower one is the same for the 1985 M 8.0 earthquake. I have outlined the area of Mexico City with a white dashed line. I created polygons for the higher MMI contours in the region of Mexico City and colored them with respect to these MMI valaues. For the M 7.1 earthquake, MMI VI is shown in yellow and MMI VI.5 is shown in darker yellow. For the 1985 earthquake, MMI VI is shown, but MMI VI.5 is not modeled for Mexico City. The take away: the M 7.1 potentially caused greater ground shaking in the Mexico City region than did the 1985 earthquake.
  • In the lower left corner is a comparison of three ground motion model results from the Instituto De Ingenieria. From left to right are the 1985 M 8.0, the 2017 M 8.1, and the 2017 M 7.1 earthquakes. There are a variety of model results for these earthquakes, but I selected the results shown for a 1 second period (the period of seismic waves) because this is a frequency of seismic waves that multi story buildings can be sensitive to (see educational video about resonance below for more on this). Note that the largest ground motions are from the M 7.1 earthquake. The 1985 was quite deadly and damaging, with between 6,000 and 12,000 deaths. If this M 7.1 earthquake had occurred in 1985, there probably would have been even more damage and a higher casualty number.
  • Above these comparison maps is a figure prepared by Temblor here, a company that helps people learn and prepare to be more resilient given a variety of natural hazards. This figure is the result of numerical modeling of static coulomb stress changes in the lithosphere following the 2017 M 8.1 earthquake. This basically means that regions that are red have an increased stress (an increased likelihood for an earthquake) following the earthquake, while blue represents a lower stress, or likelihood. The change in stress are very very small compared to the overall stress on any tectonic fault. This means that an earthquake may be triggered from this change in stress ONLY IF the fault is already highly strained (i.e. that the fault is about ready to generate an earthquake within a short time period, like a day, month, or year or so). The take away: the M 8.1 earthquake did not increase the stress on faults in the region of the M 7.1 (Temblor suggests the amount of increased stress near the M 7.1 is about the amount of force it takes to snap one’s fingers.


  • Here is my original interpretive poster.

  • Here is a video of the seismic waves, as they are being recorded, on the Baby Benioff seismograph in Van Matre Hall at Humboldt State University, Department of Geology. This was provided via the unofficial HSU geology facebook page, uploaded by Dr. Mark Hemphill-Haley. Here is a link to the 10 MB mp4 file for downloading.
  • Here is what Dr. Hemphill-Haley wrote about this video.
  • M 7.1 Puebla, Mexico earthquake at 11:14 AM PDT as recorded on the HSU Baby Benioff. The video is showing the surface waves arriving at campus, preceded by the P-waves at the beginning and S-waves immediately prior to the large amplitude waves. Our thoughts are with people in Mexico.

  • Here is one of the ground motion visualizations from IRIS here. Above the video is a screenshot preview. Here is a link to the video for downloading. (7 MB mp4)

  • As I mentioned the lake basin, here are some figures addressing that.
  • Here is a figure showing the thickness of the lake sediments here (Cruz-Atienza et al., 2016).

  • Topographic setting of Mexico City (MC) and the Valley of Mexico. Color scale corresponds to the basin thickness (i.e., the basin contact with the Oligocene volcanics of the Transmexican Volcanic Belt, TMVB). Stars show the epicenters for the vertical body forces applied at the free surface (green) and the magnitude 3.4 earthquake of December 1, 2014 (red). This figure has been created using the Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) Version 5.3.0, http://gmt.soest.hawaii.edu.

  • This is also from Cruz-Atienza et al. (2016) which shows their modeled seismic waves traveling through the basin.

  • Snapshots of the Green’s function for the vertical body force S6 (see Fig. 1) described by the inset time history with flat spectrum up to 1 Hz. Notice the topographic scattering, the generation and propagation of wave trains at different speeds within the basin, and their multiple diffractions. This figure has been created using the Matlab software Version R2016a, http://www.mathworks.com/.

  • Finally, here is a compilation of their model results showing how the lake basin sediments both amplify the ground motions (upper right panel) and increase their duration (lower right panel). Basically, the lake acts like a bowl of Jello.

  • (a,c) Comparison of average eigenfunctions for the 8 sources with standard deviation bars for both elastic (blue solid) and viscoelastic (red solid) simulations at two representative sites, P1 and P2, and different frequencies. Dashed lines show theoretical eigenfunctions for the vertical component of Rayleigh waves in the model of Figure A1a (Table A1) for the fundamental mode (blue) and the first (red) and second (green) overtones. Normalized peak vertical displacements observed in different boreholes (green dots in Fig. 1) are shown with black circles and error bars (after Shapiro et al., 2001). (b) Fourier spectral amplifications (geometric mean of both horizontal components) at 0.5 Hz with respect to the CUIG site (Fig. 1) averaged for the 8 sources. The black contour corresponds to the 2 s dominant-period. (d) Duration of the strong shaking phase for f < 1 Hz averaged for the 8 sources.

  • Here is an educational animation from IRIS that helps us learn about how different earth materials can lead to different amounts of amplification of seismic waves. Recall that Mexico City is underlain by lake sediments with varying amounts of water (groundwater) in the sediments.
  • Here is an educational video from IRIS that helps us learn about resonant frequency and how buildings can be susceptible to ground motions with particular periodicity, relative to the building size.
  • So, bringing this work as applied to this earthquake, Dr. Jascha Polet prepared this map that shows the outline of the lake and the locations of damaged and collapsed buildings. Note the correlation. Below the map, I include her tweet.

  • Here are some figures that show how the subduction zone varies across the Tehuantepec Ridge. More about this in my initial report, as well as in my reports for the M 8.1 earthquake.
  • This is a figure showing the location of the Tehuantepec Ridge (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Tectonic framework of the Cocos plate convergent margin. Top- General view. Yellow arrows indicate direction and speed (in cm/yr) of plate convergence, calculated from the Euler poles given by DeMets et al. (2010) for CocoeNoam (first three arrows, from left to right), and CocoeCarb (last four arrows). Length of arrow is proportional to speed. Red arrow shows location of the 96 longitude. Box indicates location of lower panel. Bottom- Location of features and places mentioned in text. Triangles indicate volcanoes of the Central American Volcanic Arc (CAVA) with known Holocene eruption (Siebert and Simkin, 2002).

  • Here is another figure, showing seismicity for this region (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Seismicity along the convergent margin. Top: Map view. Blue circles are shallow (z < 60 km) hypocenters; orange, intermediate-depth (60 < z < 100 km); yellow, deep (z > 100 km). Next three panels: Earthquakes as a function of longitude and magnitude for shallow (blue dots), intermediate (orange), and deep (yellow) hypocenters. Numbers indicate number of events on each convergent margin, with average magnitude in parenthesis. Gray line in this and subsequent figures mark the 96 deg longitude.

  • This shows the location of the cross sections. The cross sections show how the CP changes dip along strike (from north to south) (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Location of hypocentral cross-sections. Hypocentral depths are keyed as in previous figures.

  • Here are the cross sections showing the seismicity associated with the downgoing CP (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Hypocentral cross-sections. Depths are color-coded as in previous figures. Dashed lines indicate the 60-km and 100-km depths. Tick marks are at 100-km intervals, as shown on the sections. There is no vertical exaggeration and Earth’s curvature is taken into account. Number of sections refers to location on Fig. 3.

  • This figure shows thrust and normal earthquakes for three ranges of depth (Quzman-Speziale and Zunia, 2015).

  • Earthquake fault-plane solutions from CMT data. a. Shallow (z < 60 km), thrust-faulting mechanisms. b. Intermediate-depth (60 < z < 100 km) thrust-faulting events. c. Deep (z > 100 km), thrust-faulting earthquakes. d. to f. Normal-faulting events, in same layout as for thrust-faulting events.

  • Here are three figures from Tremblor.net, one of which is in the interpretive poster. These are the analyses I was discussing that we needed to see in my initial report. More detailed discussion can be found here.

  • This figure shows that there are not many earthquakes in the region between the M 8.1 and M 7.1 earthquakes. This is supporting evidence that there was not a significant increase in stress in this region (independent negative evidence for static triggering of the M 7.1 from the M 8.1).

  • This figure shows their modeling of the subduction zone in the region of the M 8.1 earthquake. I queried whether the megathrust had an increased stress following the M 8.1 earthquake. Part of the megathrust here ruptured in 1902, but the rest of the “Tehuantepec Gap” does not have an historic record (since ~1600 AD). Note how the megathrust is mostly blue, suggesting a lower likelihood of rupture. There is a narrow band of increased stress (in red). This model uses the finite fault model from Dr. Gavin Hayes (USGS).

  • As far as the likelihood of dynamic triggering (increased stress on faults while seismic waves are travelling through them), here is an analysis that helps us visualize this. This analysis (Pollitz et al., 2012) shows regions of increased dynamic stress following the 2012 Wharton Basin earthquakes. The lower spheres show seismicity for a time period following the earthquakes and note how they align with the red areas, areas of increased dynamic stress.

  • The 2012 M = 8.6 mainshock and M = 8.2 aftershock fault ruptures and maps of strain duration tstrain at a threshold value of 0.1 microstrain. a, Inferred fault ruptures of the 11 April 2012 M = 8.6 east Indian Ocean earthquake and an M = 8.2 aftershock that occurred 2 h later. Superimposed are the first 20 d of M > 4.5 aftershocks of 0–100-km depth. These earthquakes probably ruptured a complex set of subparallel and conjugate faults with the indicated sense of motion (arrows). Parts of the rupture areas of the 2004 M = 9.2 and 2005 M = 8.7 Nias earthquakes on the Sunda megathrust are indicated. b, c, Global maps of tstrain (colour scale). Superimposed are the epicentres of M>5.5 events that occurred during the 6 d preceding the mainshock (2 epicentres) and following the mainshock (24 epicentres, 16 of which are remote, that is, .1,500km from the mainshock). Focal mechanisms of six post-mainshock events with near-vertical strike-slip mechanisms (plunge of neutral axis, >60 deg) are indicated with red beachballs. The 9:00:09 11 April 2012 M = 5.5 event (in the western Aleutian Islands) occurred 21 min 33 s after the mainshock between the direct P- and S-wave arrivals from the mainshock; all others are delayed by hours to days. The focal mechanism of the mainshock is plotted at its epicentre.

  • Here is the comparison I put together for the ground motion modeling presented in the poster above.

  • Here is a really cool video that shows the seismic record of Hurricane Maria and the M 7.1 earthquake are recorded by seismometers (prepared by . The top panel shows the seismograph. The middle panel shows a spectrogram of these seismic data (showing the frequency content of the seismic waves). The lower panel shows the position of the Hurricane and M 8.1 earthquake epicenter (they should have shown the M 7.1, but that is not important. The audio is a conversion of the seismic data into sound. Here is the 1 MB mp4 file for downloading. This was prepared by Zhigang Peng from Georgia Tech for the station IU.SJG — San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is posted on the IRIS special event page. note: the hurricane and this earthquake are NOT RELATED!

References:

  • Benz, H.M., Dart, R.L., Villaseñor, Antonio, Hayes, G.P., Tarr, A.C., Furlong, K.P., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 a. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Mexico and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-F, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Benz, H.M., Tarr, A.C., Hayes, G.P., Villaseñor, Antonio, Furlong, K.P., Dart, R.L., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 b. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Caribbean plate and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-A, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Cruz-Atienza et al., 2016. Long Duration of Ground Motion in the Paradigmatic Valley of Mexico in Scientific Reports, v. 6, DOI: 10.1038/srep38807
  • Franco, A., C. Lasserre H. Lyon-Caen V. Kostoglodov E. Molina M. Guzman-Speziale D. Monterosso V. Robles C. Figueroa W. Amaya E. Barrier L. Chiquin S. Moran O. Flores J. Romero J. A. Santiago M. Manea V. C. Manea, 2012. Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador in Geophysical Journal International., v. 189, no. 3, p. 1223-1236. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05390.x
  • Franco, S.I., Kostoglodov, V., Larson, K.M., Manea, V.C>, Manea, M., and Santiago, J.A., 2005. Propagation of the 2001–2002 silent earthquake and interplate coupling in the Oaxaca subduction zone, Mexico in Earth Planets Space, v. 57., p. 973-985.
  • Garcia-Casco, A., Projenza, J.A., Iturralde-Vinent, M.A., 2011. Subduction Zones of the Caribbean: the sedimentary, magmatic, metamorphic and ore-deposit records UNESCO/iugs igcp Project 546 Subduction Zones of the Caribbean in Geologica Acta, v. 9, no., 3-4, p. 217-224
  • Gérault, M., Husson, L., Miller, M.S., and Humphreys, E.D., 2015. Flat-slab subduction, topography, and mantle dynamics in southwestern Mexico in Tectonics, v. 34, p. 1892-1909, doi:10.1002/2015TC003908.
  • Quzman-Speziale, M. and Zunia, F.R., 2015. Differences and similarities in the Cocos-North America and Cocos-Caribbean convergence, as revealed by seismic moment tensors in Journal of South American Earth Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsames.2015.10.002
  • Hayes, G. P., D. J. Wald, and R. L. Johnson, 2012. Slab1.0: A three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B01302, doi:10.1029/2011JB008524.
  • Lay et al., 2011. Outer trench-slope faulting and the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 713-718.
  • Manea, M., and Manea, V.C., 2014. On the origin of El Chichón volcano and subduction of Tehuantepec Ridge: A geodynamical perspective in JGVR, v. 175, p. 459-471.
  • Mann, P., 2007, Overview of the tectonic history of northern Central America, in Mann, P., ed., Geologic and tectonic development of the Caribbean plate boundary in northern Central America: Geological Society of America Special Paper 428, p. 1–19, doi: 10.1130/2007.2428(01). For
  • McCann, W.R., Nishenko S.P., Sykes, L.R., and Krause, J., 1979. Seismic Gaps and Plate Tectonics” Seismic Potential for Major Boundaries in Pageoph, v. 117
  • Pérez-Campos, Z., Kim, Y., Husker, A., Davis, P.M. ,Clayton, R.W., Iglesias,k A., Pacheco, J.F., Singh, S.K., Manea, V.C., and Gurnis, M., 2008. Horizontal subduction and truncation of the Cocos Plate beneath central Mexico in GRL, v. 35, doi:10.1029/2008GL035127
  • Polltz, F.F., Stein, R.S., Sevigen, V., Burgmann, R., 2012. The 11 April 2012 east Indian Ocean earthquake triggered large aftershocks worldwide in Nature, v. 000, doi:10.1038/nature11504
  • Symithe, S., E. Calais, J. B. de Chabalier, R. Robertson, and M. Higgins, 2015. Current block motions and strain accumulation on active faults in the Caribbean in J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, v. 120, p. 3748–3774, doi:10.1002/2014JB011779.

Posted in earthquake, education, Extension, geology, mexico, plate tectonics, subduction

Earthquake Report: Puebla, Mexico

Earlier today there was a large earthquake associated in some way with the subduction zone forming the Middle America Trench. There is currently some debate about what plate this earthquake occurred within, but it appears to be an intraplate earthquake within the downgoing Cocos plate (CP), beneath the North America plate (NAP).

I initially thought that this was unrelated to the recent M 8.1 earthquake offshore of Chiapas, Mexico. This is due to my view of aftershocks, that they typically occur within 2 rupture lengths of the mainshock and that they need to be on the same fault (or nearby synthetic fault). However, upon discussing this on twitter, Dr. Susan Hough suggests that this need not be the case, referring to Richter, “Charles Richter observed in the ’50s that distant aftershocks could be part of local sequences set into motion by early triggered quakes.” My initial view was also based upon the slab contours (depth contours to the top of the subducting plate, as published by Hayes et al., 2012), which are discontinuous in this region. This suggested that the earthquake was in the upper plate, the NAP. However, upon discussions with Dr. Stephen Hicks, he suggested people refer to Gérault et al. (2015) that show how the subducting slab (the CP) is flat in this region. This evidence may place the M 7.1 earthquake within the CP.

  • Upon doing my research, I learned that there was a very similar earthquake in this region in 1999. Below are the USGS websites for these two similar earthquakes.
  • 2017.09.19 M 7.1 Puebla, Mexico
  • 1999.06.15 M 7.0 Puebla, Mexico

Click on this link to my first update for this M 7.1 earthquake: UPDATE #1


Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I also include USGS epicenters from 1917-2017 for magnitudes M ≥ 7.0. I include fault plane solutions for the 1985 and 1995 earthquakes (along with the MMI contours for those earthquakes, see below for a discussion of MMI contours). I also include the moment tensor for the 2017.09.08 M 8.1 and 1999.06.15 M 7.0 earthquakes. I prepared the same poster below that also includes MMI contours for the 1985 M 8.0 earthquake. One may see that for both the 1985 and today’s M 7.1 earthquake, there are similar intensities in Mexico City. The 1985 did have slightly higher MMI intensities (MMI 6 vs. MMI 5.5). We will just need to wait and see as damage reports come in as these MMI contours are simply model based estimates (and the USGS Did You Feel It system was not yet created in 1985). I also include a map below that shows the 2017.09.08 M 8.1 MMI contours for comparison.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper right corner is a figure from Franco et al. (2012) that shows the tectonic plate boundaries in this region. I place a blue star in the general location of this M 8.1 earthquake (as below).
  • In the upper left corner is a figure from Perez and Campos (2008; as presented here) which shows the interpreted geometry of the subducting slab in this region. The profile of the seismic array used as a basis for this interpretation (the MASE array) is denoted by the brown dashed line. This line is also shown on the figure in the lower right corner).
  • In the lower right corner is a figure that shows the slab contours for the Mexico subduction zone (Gérault et al., 2015). I also place a blue star in the general location of today’s earthquake.
  • In the lower left corner is a map showing the same seismicity presented in the main map, but I include MMI contours from the 1999 earthquake. I show where Mexico City is and the ground shaking from 1999 does not have the same intensities (in Mexico City) as does the 2017 M 7.1 earthquake.


  • This shows the MMI contours for the 1985 M 8.0 earthquake.

  • This version includes the MMI contours for the 2017.09.08 M 8.1 earthquake.

  • As I was writing this, the USGS prepared a poster. Below is that poster (also on the earthquake page here.)

  • Here is a comparison of the modeled intensities for three earthquakes, the 1985, 1999, and today’s M 7.1 earthquakes.

  • Here is the Franco et al. (2012) tectonic map.

  • Tectonic setting of the Caribbean Plate. Grey rectangle shows study area of Fig. 2. Faults are mostly from Feuillet et al. (2002). PMF, Polochic–Motagua faults; EF, Enriquillo Fault; TD, Trinidad Fault; GB, Guatemala Basin. Topography and bathymetry are from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (Farr&Kobrick 2000) and Smith & Sandwell (1997), respectively. Plate velocities relative to Caribbean Plate are from Nuvel1 (DeMets et al. 1990) for Cocos Plate, DeMets et al. (2000) for North America Plate and Weber et al. (2001) for South America Plate.

  • Here is the figure from Gérault et al. (2015) that shows the slab contours.

  • (a) Geodynamic context of southwestern Mexico. Topography and bathymetry from ETOPO1 [Amante and Eakins, 2009]. A white curve outlines the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (TMVB) [Ferrari et al., 2012]. The black lines show the isodepths of the Cocos slab at a 20 km interval, using seismicity up to ∼45 km depth and tomography below [Kim et al., 2012a]. These slab contours show that distinct topographic domains are associated with variations in slab geometry. The yellow vector shows the relative convergence velocity between the Cocos and North America Plate near Acapulco, holding North America fixed [DeMets et al., 2010]. The pink circles show the locations of the Meso-America Subduction Experiment (MASE) stations. (b) Moho depth (red) and upper slab limit (blue) from Kim et al. [2012a, 2013]. The dashed line shows the simplified Moho depth that we used in the numerical models. (c) Measured and smoothed topography along the MASE profile as a function of the distance from the southernmost seismic station, near Acapulco. The topography is smoothed using three passages of a rectangular sliding average of width 15 km.

    P

  • Here are some figures from Pérez-Campos et al. (2008) that show results from the MASE seismic experiment. First is the map showing the seismic array in the tectonic context.

  • MASE seismic array. Slab isodepth contours from Pardo and Sua´rez [1995] are in blue dashed lines. The dots represent epicenters of M>4 earthquakes, reported by the Servicio Sismolo´gico Nacional (SSN; in pink) from December 2004 through June 2007 and those re-located by Pardo and Sua´rez [1995] (in green). The thick orange line represents the profile of Figures 2 and 3. The arrows indicate the beginning (dark blue) and end (light blue) of the flat segment, and the tip of the slab (red).

  • These authors used receiver functions to estimate the depth to the Cocos plate (the slab depth). Below is their figure showing their results. Receiver function analyses use an array (a linear network, or grid network, but a linear network in this case) of seismometers. “A receiver function technique is a way to model the structure of the Earth by using the information from teleseismic earthquakes recorded at a three component seismograph.” More can be found on this here and here.

  • Receiver function images. The black triangles denote the position of the stations along the profile with elevation exaggerated 10 times. The thick brown line denotes the extent of the TMVB. Seismicity (SSN: pink; Pardo and Sua´rez [1995]: green), within 50 km of the MASE profile, is shown as dots. The bottom left plot shows RFs for one teleseismic event along the flat slab portion of the slab; the bottom middle plot illustrates the corresponding model (LVM = low velocity mantle and OC = oceanic crust). Compressional-wave velocity models A, B, and C shown in the bottom right plot were determined from waveform modeling of RFs. They correspond to the structure at A, B, and C of the bottom left plot.

  • And finally, here is their model of the subducting slab. The authors also use seismic tomography to evaluate the geometry of the plates in this region. Seismic tomography is the same as a CT scan of the Earth. We can think of seismic tomography as a 3-D X-Ray of the Earth, just using seismic waves instead.

  • Composite model: tomographic and RF image showing the flat and descending segments of the slab. The key features are the flat under-plated subduction for 250 km, and the location and truncation of the slab at 500 km. The zone separating the ocean crust from the continental Moho is estimated to be less than 10 km in thickness. NA = North America, C = Cocos, LC = lower crust, LVM = low velocity mantle, OC = oceanic crust.

  • Below is a video that explains seismic tomography from IRIS.

Update 17:25 PST

  • While I was in the bath, I was thinking about the Tehuantepec Ridge (TR; a fracture zone, not really a ridge) may be the location of a tear in the slab of the downgoing Cocos plate. There is a small age offset (of the oceanic crust) on either side of the TR and the dip of the slab is different too. When I got back in bed (I am currently ill), I saw Dr. Jasha Polet’s post showing the cross sections at the locations for these two earthquakes. Whether there is a tear or not, the slab is behaving differently in these locations. This lends credence to the interpretation that these earthquakes are not a foreshock/aftershock sequence. Below I present Dr. Polet’s cross sections, along with a map showing the entire region.
  • Map

  • Northern Cross Section M 7.1. The M 7.1 earthquake is the largest focal mechanism in the easternmost part of the section (the outline is not black like the other focal mechanisms).

  • Southern Cross Section M 8.1. The M 8.1 earthquake is the largest focal mechanism at about 200 km distance (the outline is not black like the other focal mechanisms).

  • Also, Dr. Gavin Hayes (as mentioned above with the earthquake poster) tweeted this interpretation below. This is also posted on the USGS website for this earthquake.

References:

  • Benz, H.M., Dart, R.L., Villaseñor, Antonio, Hayes, G.P., Tarr, A.C., Furlong, K.P., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 a. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Mexico and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-F, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Benz, H.M., Tarr, A.C., Hayes, G.P., Villaseñor, Antonio, Furlong, K.P., Dart, R.L., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 b. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Caribbean plate and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-A, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Franco, A., C. Lasserre H. Lyon-Caen V. Kostoglodov E. Molina M. Guzman-Speziale D. Monterosso V. Robles C. Figueroa W. Amaya E. Barrier L. Chiquin S. Moran O. Flores J. Romero J. A. Santiago M. Manea V. C. Manea, 2012. Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador in Geophysical Journal International., v. 189, no. 3, p. 1223-1236. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05390.x
  • Franco, S.I., Kostoglodov, V., Larson, K.M., Manea, V.C>, Manea, M., and Santiago, J.A., 2005. Propagation of the 2001–2002 silent earthquake and interplate coupling in the Oaxaca subduction zone, Mexico in Earth Planets Space, v. 57., p. 973-985.
  • Garcia-Casco, A., Projenza, J.A., Iturralde-Vinent, M.A., 2011. Subduction Zones of the Caribbean: the sedimentary, magmatic, metamorphic and ore-deposit records UNESCO/iugs igcp Project 546 Subduction Zones of the Caribbean in Geologica Acta, v. 9, no., 3-4, p. 217-224
  • Gérault, M., Husson, L., Miller, M.S., and Humphreys, E.D., 2015. Flat-slab subduction, topography, and mantle dynamics in southwestern Mexico in Tectonics, v. 34, p. 1892-1909, doi:10.1002/2015TC003908.
  • Hayes, G. P., D. J. Wald, and R. L. Johnson, 2012. Slab1.0: A three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B01302, doi:10.1029/2011JB008524.
  • Lay et al., 2011. Outer trench-slope faulting and the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 713-718.
  • Manea, M., and Manea, V.C., 2014. On the origin of El Chichón volcano and subduction of Tehuantepec Ridge: A geodynamical perspective in JGVR, v. 175, p. 459-471.
  • Mann, P., 2007, Overview of the tectonic history of northern Central America, in Mann, P., ed., Geologic and tectonic development of the Caribbean plate boundary in northern Central America: Geological Society of America Special Paper 428, p. 1–19, doi: 10.1130/2007.2428(01). For
  • McCann, W.R., Nishenko S.P., Sykes, L.R., and Krause, J., 1979. Seismic Gaps and Plate Tectonics” Seismic Potential for Major Boundaries in Pageoph, v. 117
  • Pérez-Campos, Z., Kim, Y., Husker, A., Davis, P.M. ,Clayton, R.W., Iglesias,k A., Pacheco, J.F., Singh, S.K., Manea, V.C., and Gurnis, M., 2008. Horizontal subduction and truncation of the Cocos Plate beneath central Mexico in GRL, v. 35, doi:10.1029/2008GL035127
  • Symithe, S., E. Calais, J. B. de Chabalier, R. Robertson, and M. Higgins, 2015. Current block motions and strain accumulation on active faults in the Caribbean in J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, v. 120, p. 3748–3774, doi:10.1002/2014JB011779.

Posted in Uncategorized

Earthquake Report: Chiapas, Mexico Update #1

Well, after about 4 hours sleep, my business partner woke me up to talk about the fire alarms we were installing in a rental (#safetyfirst). Now that I have had some breakfast, I here provide some additional observations that people have made since I prepared my initial report.

Below I present some figures about the Tehuantepec Seismic Gap (as before, but with additional figures). The impetus for this is two fold: (1) it is interesting for earthquake geologists as they consider earthquake recurrence patterns, globally and (2) that the M 8.1 earthquake was not a subduction zone earthquake and may have loaded the megathrust.

  1. The topic of seismic gaps is a long conversation that I don’t currently have the time to delve into (need to grout some tile, paint some trim, edit a conference paper, etc.). But I will revisit this later. If one wants to read the latest science about seismic gaps, check out the papers regardign the Shumagin Gap. There are now papers that suggest the gap exists and that the gap does not exist. More on that some other time.
  2. The M 8.1 earthquake was an extensional earthquake in the downgoing Cocos plate. While a formal analysis needs to occur, I hypothesize that the megathrust fault probably has an increased coulomb stress following the M 8.1 earthquake. I present a figure below from Lay et al. (2011) that is an imperfect analogy. Others will need to do the modeling. Either way, the region will hopefully be continued to be prepared for a subduction zone earthquake in this region. It is possible that this region may not have Great subduction zone earthquakes (M > 8), but as always, hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I also include USGS epicenters from 1917-2017 for magnitudes M ≥ 8.0. I include fault plane solutions for the 1985 earthquake (along with the MMI contours for that earthquake, see below for a discussion of MMI contours).

I outline the region of seismicity from June 2017. I include posters and links to the reports from that sequence below.

I also outline the region of the megathrust where the Tehuantepec Seismic Gap is located, generally in the region of the M 7.8 1902 megathrust earthquake. The Tehuantepec Ridge is a player in the regional tectonics as I discussed on my report earlier today.

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. Note how much larger the MMI intensity is for this earthquake, compared to the 1985 and 1995 earthquakes.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the lower left corner is a figure from Franco et al. (2012) that shows the tectonic plate boundaries in this region. I place a blue star in the general location of this M 8.1 earthquake (as below).
  • In the upper right corner is a figure from McCann et al. (1979) showing the major subduction zone earthquakes associated with the subduction zone that forms the Middle America Trench. This is the first (?) acknowledgement for the potential of a seismic gap in the region of today’s M 8.1 earthquake.


  • Here is the initial report poster as presented in my initial Earthquake Report here.

  • Here are two views of the earthquake as recorded on Humboldt State University Department of Geology’s Baby Benioff seismometer. The photos are from Dr. Lori Dengler and were taken in the hallway in Van Matre Hall. Click on the image for a high res version (2 and 5 MB files).


  • Here is the Franco et al. (2012) tectonic map.

  • Tectonic setting of the Caribbean Plate. Grey rectangle shows study area of Fig. 2. Faults are mostly from Feuillet et al. (2002). PMF, Polochic–Motagua faults; EF, Enriquillo Fault; TD, Trinidad Fault; GB, Guatemala Basin. Topography and bathymetry are from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (Farr&Kobrick 2000) and Smith & Sandwell (1997), respectively. Plate velocities relative to Caribbean Plate are from Nuvel1 (DeMets et al. 1990) for Cocos Plate, DeMets et al. (2000) for North America Plate and Weber et al. (2001) for South America Plate.

  • Here is an updated list of observations of the trans-Pacific tsunami.

  • This is an update of the tide gage record at Salina Cruz in Oahaca, Mexico. It has been 15 hours and the tsunami waves are still significant (not as large amplitude as the initial few waves, but still potentially dangerous).

  • Here is the McCann et al. (1979) summary figure.

  • Rupture zones (ellipses) and epicenters (triangles and circles) of large shallow earthquakes (after KELLEHER et al., 1973) and bathymetry (CHASE et al., 1970) along the Middle America arc. Note that six gaps which have earthquake histories have not ruptured for 40 years or more. In contrast, the gap near the intersection of the Tehuantepec ridge has no known history of large shocks. Contours are in fathoms.

  • This is a more updated figure from Franco et al. (2005) showing the seismic gap.
  • In 1902, there was an M 7.8 earthquake in the same region as tonight’s M 8.1. Here is a map from Franco et al. (2015) that shows the rupture patches for historic earthquakes in this region.

  • The study area encompasses Guerrero and Oaxaca states of Mexico. Shaded ellipse-like areas annotated with the years are rupture areas of the most recent major thrust earthquakes (M≥6.5) in the Mexican subduction zone. Triangles show locations of permanent GPS stations. Small hexagons indicate campaign GPS sites. Arrows are the Cocos-North America convergence vectors from NUVEL-1A model (DeMets et al., 1994). Double head arrow shows the extent of the Guerrero seismic gap. Solid and dashed curves annotated with negative numbers show the depth in km down to the surface of subducting Cocos plate (modified from Pardo and Su´arez, 1995, using the plate interface configuration model for the Central Oaxaca from this study, the model for Guerrero from Kostoglodov et al. (1996), and the last seismological estimates in Chiapas by Bravo et al. (2004). MAT, Middle America trench.

  • Here is a cross section showing focal mechanisms for this region, prepared by Dr. Mike Brudzinski.

  • Below are a map and cross section showing focal mechanisms for this region from Dr. Jascha Polet.


  • Late breaking update from Jascha. Dr. Polet plotted the aftershocks to find that there is a clear NW rupture trend. Dr. Polet also points out that the aftershocks are in a narrow band, suggesting a steeply dipping fault. Also, they suggest that this is a short rupture (length ~200km) for a M 8.1 earthquake.

  • Here is a great audio video representation of the seismic record from Hurricane Irma and this M 8.1 earthquake from Zhigang Peng.
  • Here are a couple visualizations of the seismic waves as they propagate through the seismic network. These animations are produced by IRIS here.
  • Here is a figure from Lay et al, (2011) that shows how stresses change on various types of faults given slip on the megathrust. A very simplistic way of applying this to today’s scenario would be that instead of an increasted stress on normal faults imparted by the megathrust earthquake (as in Japan), that there may be an increased coulomb stress on the megathrust imparted by the normal fault earthquake (as in Mexico). This is pure arm waving (as one would expect from a geologist), but I hope that someone does the analysis soon. I suspect that Tremblor.com will have something on this very soon.

References:

  • Benz, H.M., Dart, R.L., Villaseñor, Antonio, Hayes, G.P., Tarr, A.C., Furlong, K.P., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 a. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Mexico and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-F, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Benz, H.M., Tarr, A.C., Hayes, G.P., Villaseñor, Antonio, Furlong, K.P., Dart, R.L., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 b. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Caribbean plate and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-A, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Franco, A., C. Lasserre H. Lyon-Caen V. Kostoglodov E. Molina M. Guzman-Speziale D. Monterosso V. Robles C. Figueroa W. Amaya E. Barrier L. Chiquin S. Moran O. Flores J. Romero J. A. Santiago M. Manea V. C. Manea, 2012. Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador in Geophysical Journal International., v. 189, no. 3, p. 1223-1236. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05390.x
  • Franco, S.I., Kostoglodov, V., Larson, K.M., Manea, V.C>, Manea, M., and Santiago, J.A., 2005. Propagation of the 2001–2002 silent earthquake and interplate coupling in the Oaxaca subduction zone, Mexico in Earth Planets Space, v. 57., p. 973-985.
  • Garcia-Casco, A., Projenza, J.A., Iturralde-Vinent, M.A., 2011. Subduction Zones of the Caribbean: the sedimentary, magmatic, metamorphic and ore-deposit records UNESCO/iugs igcp Project 546 Subduction Zones of the Caribbean in Geologica Acta, v. 9, no., 3-4, p. 217-224
  • Hayes, G. P., D. J. Wald, and R. L. Johnson, 2012. Slab1.0: A three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B01302, doi:10.1029/2011JB008524.
  • Lay et al., 2011. Outer trench-slope faulting and the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake in Earth Planets Space, v. 63, p. 713-718.
  • Manea, M., and Manea, V.C., 2014. On the origin of El Chichón volcano and subduction of Tehuantepec Ridge: A geodynamical perspective in JGVR, v. 175, p. 459-471.
  • Mann, P., 2007, Overview of the tectonic history of northern Central America, in Mann, P., ed., Geologic and tectonic development of the Caribbean plate boundary in northern Central America: Geological Society of America Special Paper 428, p. 1–19, doi: 10.1130/2007.2428(01). For
  • McCann, W.R., Nishenko S.P., Sykes, L.R., and Krause, J., 1979. Seismic Gaps and Plate Tectonics” Seismic Potential for Major Boundaries in Pageoph, v. 117
  • Symithe, S., E. Calais, J. B. de Chabalier, R. Robertson, and M. Higgins, 2015. Current block motions and strain accumulation on active faults in the Caribbean in J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, v. 120, p. 3748–3774, doi:10.1002/2014JB011779.

Posted in earthquake, education, geology, mexico, pacific, plate tectonics, subduction, tsunami

Earthquake Report: Chiapas, Mexico

While I was spending time with my friend Steve Tillinghast (he is getting married on Saturday), there was a Great Earthquake offshore of Chiapas, Mexico. This is one of four M 8 or greater earthquakes ever recorded along the subduction zone forming the Middle American Trench. There has recently been some seismic activity to the east of this current M 8.1 earthquake. These earthquakes happened near the boundary between the North America (NAP) and Caribbean (CP) upper plates.

This M 8.1 earthquake happened in a region of the subduction zone that is interpreted to have a higher coupling ratio than further to the south (higher proportion of the plate convergence rate is accumulated as elastic strain due to seismogenic coupling of the megathrust fault). Faults that are aseismic (fully slipping) have a coupling ratio of zero. The Polochic-Motagua fault zone marks this NAP-CP boundary. The recent seismicity offshore of Guatemala (June 2017) comprised a series of thrust earthquakes along the upper megathrust, along with some down-dip extensional faulting.

Tonight’s earthquake will be a very damaging and deadly earthquake and, based upon the shake map, possibly more damaging than either the 1985 or 1995 earthquakes. The 1985 earthquake caused severe damage in Mexico City. The PAGER alert shows an estimate of 34% probability for between 1000 and 10,000 fatalities. However, please read below about the PAGER alert and go to the USGS website about PAGER alerts (link below). These are just model based estimates of damage, so we won’t really know the damage until this is evaluated with “boots on the ground.” One might consider PAGER alerts to be the “armchair estimate” of damage. Thanks to Dr. Lori Dengler for reviewing my report (though any mistakes are only to be credited to me).

This M 8.1 earthquake is deeper than the megathrust fault and has an extensional moment tensor. This is not a megathrust earthquake, but is related to slip on a fault in the downgoing Cocos plate. At this depth, it may be due to bending in the downgoing oceanic lithosphere.

There is no danger of a tsunami here along the west coast of the U.S. West Coast, British Colombia, or Alaska. There have been some tsunami observations

  • Here are the USGS web pages for these four Great Earthquakes.
  • 1932.06.03 M 8.1 Jalisco, Mexico
  • 1985.09.19 M 8.0 Colima, Mexico
  • 1995.10.09 M 8.0 Colima, Mexico
  • 2017.09.08 M 8.1 Chiapas, Mexico

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

I plot the seismicity from the past month, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I also include USGS epicenters from 1917-2017 for magnitudes M ≥ 8.0. I include fault plane solutions for the 1985 and 1995 earthquakes (along with the MMI contours for those earthquakes, see below for a discussion of MMI contours).

  • I placed a moment tensor / focal mechanism legend on the poster. There is more material from the USGS web sites about moment tensors and focal mechanisms (the beach ball symbols). Both moment tensors and focal mechanisms are solutions to seismologic data that reveal two possible interpretations for fault orientation and sense of motion. One must use other information, like the regional tectonics, to interpret which of the two possibilities is more likely.
  • I also include the shaking intensity contours on the map. These use the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale (MMI; see the legend on the map). This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. The MMI is a qualitative measure of shaking intensity. More on the MMI scale can be found here and here. This is based upon a computer model estimate of ground motions, different from the “Did You Feel It?” estimate of ground motions that is actually based on real observations. Note how much larger the MMI intensity is for this earthquake, compared to the 1985 and 1995 earthquakes.
  • I include the slab contours plotted (Hayes et al., 2012), which are contours that represent the depth to the subduction zone fault. These are mostly based upon seismicity. The depths of the earthquakes have considerable error and do not all occur along the subduction zone faults, so these slab contours are simply the best estimate for the location of the fault.

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the lower left corner is a map from Mann (2007) that shows the regional tectonics. Plate boundary faults are in bold line, while lineations representing the spreading history are represented by thinner lines. I place a blue star in the general location of tonight’s M 8.1 earthquake (also in other inset maps).
  • in the upper right corner is a map showing USGS seismicity in this region (Benz et al., 2011 a). To the left I present their cross section B-B’ showing USGS hypocenters. This cross section is shown as a blue line on the map.
  • In the upper left corner is the USGS fault slip model.
  • In the lower right corner is a map that shows the Tehuantepec Ridge and how the oceanic lithosphere varies across this boundary. The crust has different ages on either side of this transform fault, which can control the stresses imposed upon the fault on either side of this fault.


  • Here is the same poster, but shows seismicity with earthquakes of smaller magnitudes (M 7).

  • As mentioned above, this earthquake has the potential to cause much harm to people and their belongings and infrastructure. Below is the USGS report that includes estimates of damage to people (possible fatalities) and their belongings from the Rapid Assessment of an Earthquake’s Impact (PAGER) report. More on the PAGER program can be found here. An explanation of a PAGER report can be found here. PAGER reports are modeled estimates of damage. On the top is a histogram showing estimated casualties and on the right is an estimate of possible economic losses. This PAGER report suggests that there will be quite a bit of damage from this earthquake (and casualties). This earthquake has a high probability of damage to people and their belongings.

  • Here is the threat forecast from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The below all come from this report.
  • TSUNAMI THREAT FORECAST
    ———————–

    * TSUNAMI WAVES REACHING MORE THAN 3 METERS ABOVE THE TIDE
    LEVEL ARE POSSIBLE ALONG SOME COASTS OF

    MEXICO.

    * TSUNAMI WAVES REACHING 0.3 TO 1 METERS ABOVE THE TIDE LEVEL
    ARE POSSIBLE FOR SOME COASTS OF

    AMERICAN SAMOA… ANTARCTICA… COOK ISLANDS… ECUADOR…
    EL SALVADOR… FIJI… FRENCH POLYNESIA… GUATEMALA…
    KIRIBATI… NEW ZEALAND… SAMOA… TOKELAU… TUVALU…
    VANUATU… AND WALLIS AND FUTUNA.

    * TSUNAMI WAVES ARE FORECAST TO BE LESS THAN 0.3 METERS ABOVE
    THE TIDE LEVEL FOR THE COASTS OF

    AUSTRALIA… CHILE… CHINA… CHUUK… COLOMBIA… COSTA
    RICA… GUAM… HAWAII… HONDURAS… HOWLAND AND BAKER…
    INDONESIA… JAPAN… JARVIS ISLAND… JOHNSTON ATOLL…
    KERMADEC ISLANDS… KOSRAE… MALAYSIA… MARSHALL
    ISLANDS… MIDWAY ISLAND… NAURU… NEW CALEDONIA…
    NICARAGUA… NIUE… NORTHERN MARIANAS… NORTHWESTERN
    HAWAIIAN ISLANDS… PALAU… PALMYRA ISLAND… PANAMA…
    PAPUA NEW GUINEA… PERU… PHILIPPINES… PITCAIRN
    ISLANDS… POHNPEI… RUSSIA… SOLOMON ISLANDS…
    TAIWAN… TONGA… VIETNAM… WAKE ISLAND… AND YAP.

  • Here are the arrival time estimates. The below all come from this report.
  • ESTIMATED TIMES OF ARRIVAL
    ————————–

    * ESTIMATED TIMES OF ARRIVAL -ETA- OF THE INITIAL TSUNAMI WAVE
    FOR PLACES WITHIN THREATENED REGIONS ARE GIVEN BELOW. ACTUAL
    ARRIVAL TIMES MAY DIFFER AND THE INITIAL WAVE MAY NOT BE THE
    LARGEST. A TSUNAMI IS A SERIES OF WAVES AND THE TIME BETWEEN
    WAVES CAN BE FIVE MINUTES TO ONE HOUR.


  • Here are the tsunami observations. The below all come from this report.
  • TSUNAMI OBSERVATIONS
    ——————–

    * THE FOLLOWING ARE TSUNAMI WAVE OBSERVATIONS FROM COASTAL
    AND/OR DEEP-OCEAN SEA LEVEL GAUGES AT THE INDICATED
    LOCATIONS. THE MAXIMUM TSUNAMI HEIGHT IS MEASURED WITH
    RESPECT TO THE NORMAL TIDE LEVEL.


  • Here is a map showing the spreading ridge features, along with the plate boundary faults (Mann, 2007). This is similar to the inset map in the interpretive poster.

  • Marine magnetic anomalies and fracture zones that constrain tectonic reconstructions such as those shown in Figure 4 (ages of anomalies are keyed to colors as explained in the legend; all anomalies shown are from University of Texas Institute for Geophysics PLATES [2000] database): (1) Boxed area in solid blue line is area of anomaly and fracture zone picks by Leroy et al. (2000) and Rosencrantz (1994); (2) boxed area in dashed purple line shows anomalies and fracture zones of Barckhausen et al. (2001) for the Cocos plate; (3) boxed area in dashed green line shows anomalies and fracture zones from Wilson and Hey (1995); and (4) boxed area in red shows anomalies and fracture zones from Wilson (1996). Onland outcrops in green are either the obducted Cretaceous Caribbean large igneous province, including the Siuna belt, or obducted ophiolites unrelated to the large igneous province (Motagua ophiolites). The magnetic anomalies and fracture zones record the Cenozoic relative motions of all divergent plate pairs infl uencing the Central American subduction zone (Caribbean, Nazca, Cocos, North America, and South America). When incorporated into a plate model, these anomalies and fracture zones provide important constraints on the age and thickness of subducted crust, incidence angle of subduction, and rate of subduction for the Central American region. MCSC—Mid-Cayman Spreading Center.

  • Here is the Manea and Manea (2007) map showing the lithospheric contrast across the Tehuantepec Ridge, a fracture zone.

  • Generalized tectonic map of the study area. Transparent red zones show the location of active volcanic belts in México: CMVB — Central Mexican Volcanic Belt, MCVA — Modern Chiapanecan Volcanic Arc. Transparent gray area: the extinct Sierra Madre Miocenic Arc. Orange stars are the El Chichón and San Martin active volcanoes. EPR — East Pacific Rise. MAT — Middle American Trench. Right black dashed line with a question mark is the hypothetical prolongation of Polochic–Montagua fault system which represents the limit between North America (NAM) and Caribbean plates. White dashed line is the onshore prolongation of Tehuantepec Ridge. Onshore white contours represent the slab isodepths (Bravo et al., 2004; Pardo and Suarez, 1995). Arrows show convergence velocities between the Cocos and North American plates (DeMets et al., 1994). TR1 and TR2 are the cross-sections where we calculate the thermal structure across TR (Fig. 10). Cocos plate ages are from Manea et al. (2005). White line dashed squares show the location of magnetic and gravity maps (Figs. 3, 5, 6). Blue dots represent continental heat-flow measurements (mW/m2) from Ziagos et al. (1985).

  • This figure from Rebollar et al., 1999 shows focal mechanisms for some earthauakes in this area. Earthquake 6C has a similar mechanism and location as tonight’s M 8.1 earthquake.

  • However, this is the cross section from Rebollar et al. (1999) that shows earthquake 6C to be much much shallower.

  • In 1902, there was an M 7.8 earthquake in the same region as tonight’s M 8.1. Here is a map from Franco et al. (2015) that shows the rupture patches for historic earthquakes in this region.

  • The study area encompasses Guerrero and Oaxaca states of Mexico. Shaded ellipse-like areas annotated with the years are rupture areas of the most recent major thrust earthquakes (M≥6.5) in the Mexican subduction zone. Triangles show locations of permanent GPS stations. Small hexagons indicate campaign GPS sites. Arrows are the Cocos-North America convergence vectors from NUVEL-1A model (DeMets et al., 1994). Double head arrow shows the extent of the Guerrero seismic gap. Solid and dashed curves annotated with negative numbers show the depth in km down to the surface of subducting Cocos plate (modified from Pardo and Su´arez, 1995, using the plate interface configuration model for the Central Oaxaca from this study, the model for Guerrero from Kostoglodov et al. (1996), and the last seismological estimates in Chiapas by Bravo et al. (2004). MAT, Middle America trench.

  • Initially, I forgot to include these figures from Franco et al. (2012). These figures show various estimates of the amount of seismogenic coupling along the megathrust. I include these because the M 8.1 earthquake happened in this region of higher seismogenic coupling.

  • Inverted coupling coefficients along the MFe, MFc, MATch and MATgs, and residual velocities for best-fitting 3B model.


    Same as Fig. 7 for best-fitting 4B model, with coupling along VAF fixed to 1.


    Proposed model of faults kinematics and coupling along the Cocos slab interface, revised from Lyon-Caen et al. (2006). Numbers are velocities relative to CA plate in mmyr−1. Focal mechanisms are for crustal earthquakes (depth ≤30 km) since 1976, from CMT Harvard catalogue.

References:

  • Benz, H.M., Dart, R.L., Villaseñor, Antonio, Hayes, G.P., Tarr, A.C., Furlong, K.P., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 a. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Mexico and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-F, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Benz, H.M., Tarr, A.C., Hayes, G.P., Villaseñor, Antonio, Furlong, K.P., Dart, R.L., and Rhea, Susan, 2011 b. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Caribbean plate and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-A, scale 1:8,000,000.
  • Franco, A., C. Lasserre H. Lyon-Caen V. Kostoglodov E. Molina M. Guzman-Speziale D. Monterosso V. Robles C. Figueroa W. Amaya E. Barrier L. Chiquin S. Moran O. Flores J. Romero J. A. Santiago M. Manea V. C. Manea, 2012. Fault kinematics in northern Central America and coupling along the subduction interface of the Cocos Plate, from GPS data in Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala and El Salvador in Geophysical Journal International., v. 189, no. 3, p. 1223-1236. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05390.x
  • Franco, S.I., Kostoglodov, V., Larson, K.M., Manea, V.C>, Manea, M., and Santiago, J.A., 2005. Propagation of the 2001–2002 silent earthquake and interplate coupling in the Oaxaca subduction zone, Mexico in Earth Planets Space, v. 57., p. 973-985.
  • Garcia-Casco, A., Projenza, J.A., Iturralde-Vinent, M.A., 2011. Subduction Zones of the Caribbean: the sedimentary, magmatic, metamorphic and ore-deposit records UNESCO/iugs igcp Project 546 Subduction Zones of the Caribbean in Geologica Acta, v. 9, no., 3-4, p. 217-224
  • Hayes, G. P., D. J. Wald, and R. L. Johnson, 2012. Slab1.0: A three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B01302, doi:10.1029/2011JB008524.
  • Manea, M., and Manea, V.C., 2014. On the origin of El Chichón volcano and subduction of Tehuantepec Ridge: A geodynamical perspective in JGVR, v. 175, p. 459-471.
  • Mann, P., 2007, Overview of the tectonic history of northern Central America, in Mann, P., ed., Geologic and tectonic development of the Caribbean plate boundary in northern Central America: Geological Society of America Special Paper 428, p. 1–19, doi: 10.1130/2007.2428(01). For
  • Symithe, S., E. Calais, J. B. de Chabalier, R. Robertson, and M. Higgins, 2015. Current block motions and strain accumulation on active faults in the Caribbean in J. Geophys. Res. Solid Earth, v. 120, p. 3748–3774, doi:10.1002/2014JB011779.

Posted in earthquake, education, geology, mexico, pacific, plate tectonics, subduction