Earthquake Report: Mentawai, Sumatra

We just had an earthquake in the Mentawai region of the Sunda subduction zone offshore of Sumatra. Here is the USGS website for this M 6.3 earthquake.

Based upon the hypocentral depth and the current estimate of the location of the subduction zone fault, this appears to be a subduction zone interface earthquake.

This M 6.3 earthquake happened near the location of an M 7.6 earthquake on 2009.09.30. Here is the USGS website for this M 7.6 earthquake. The M 7.6 earthquake was deep in the downgoing slab (oceanic crust of the India-Australia plate).

There was an M 6.4 earthquake further to the south on 2017.08.13 and here is my report for that earthquake. These two earthquakes are probably not related.

Today’s earthquake happened in a region of the subduction zone that has not yet ruptured in recent times (with a large magnitude earthquake). The city of Padang, due East of this earthquake, is low lying with millions of people living and working at elevations of less than a few meters. The residents of Padang have a high exposure to earthquake and tsunami risk associated with this subduction zone. Today’s earthquake also happened in a region of the subduction zone that may have a lower amount of seismic coupling (i.e. a lower amount of “stick” on the fault). See the Chlieh et al. (2008) figures in this report and poster.

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 ≥ 7.5.

  • 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 poster.

  • In the upper left corner, I include a map from Hayes et al. (2013) that shows the epicenters of earthquakes from the past century or so. There is also a cross section that is in the region of the 2007 and 2017 M 8.4 and M 6.4 earthquakes. I also placed a C-C’ green line on the main map to show where this cross section is compared to the other features on my map. I placed a blue star in the general location of the M 6.4 earthquake.
  • In the upper right corner, I include a map I made that delineates the spatial extent for historic earthquakes along the Sunda Megathrust. This came from a paper that I had submitted to Marine Geology. I include this figure below with attributions to the publications that I used as references for this map.
  • In the lower right corner, I present a figure from Chlieh et al. (2008 ). These authors use GPS and coral geodetic and paleogeodetic data to constrain the proportion of the plate motion rates that are accumulated as tectonic strain along the megathrust fault. Basically, this means how much % that the fault is storing energy to be released in subduction zone earthquakes. This is just a model and is limited by the temporal and spatial extent of their observations which form the basis for their model. However, this is a well respected approach to estimate the potential for future earthquake (given the assumptions that I here mention).


  • Here is the interpretive poster for the M 6.4 earthquake from 2017.08.13.

  • Here is my map. I include the references below in blockquote.

  • Sumatra core location and plate setting map with sedimentary and erosive systems figure. A. India-Australia plate subducts northeastwardly beneath the Sunda plate (part of Eurasia) at modern rates (GPS velocities are based on regional modeling of Bock et al, 2003 as plotted in Subarya et al., 2006). Historic earthquake ruptures (Bilham, 2005; Malik et al., 2011) are plotted in orange. 2004 earthquake and 2005 earthquake 5 meter slip contours are plotted in orange and green respectively (Chlieh et al., 2007, 2008). Bengal and Nicobar fans cover structures of the India-Australia plate in the northern part of the map. RR0705 cores are plotted as light blue. SRTM bathymetry and topography is in shaded relief and colored vs. depth/elevation (Smith and Sandwell, 1997). B. Schematic illustration of geomorphic elements of subduction zone trench and slope sedimentary settings. Submarine channels, submarine canyons, dune fields and sediment waves, abyssal plain, trench axis, plunge pool, apron fans, and apron fan channels are labeled here. Modified from Patton et al. (2013 a).

  • This is the main figure from Hayes et al. (2013) from the Seismicity of the Earth series. There is a map with the slab contours and seismicity both colored vs. depth. There are also some cross sections of seismicity plotted, with locations shown on the map.

  • Here is a great figure from Philobosian et al. (2014) that shows the slip patches from the subduction zone earthquakes in this region.

  • Map of Southeast Asia showing recent and selected historical ruptures of the Sunda megathrust. Black lines with sense of motion are major plate-bounding faults, and gray lines are seafloor fracture zones. Motions of Australian and Indian plates relative to Sunda plate are from the MORVEL-1 global model [DeMets et al., 2010]. The fore-arc sliver between the Sunda megathrust and the strike-slip Sumatran Fault becomes the Burma microplate farther north, but this long, thin strip of crust does not necessarily all behave as a rigid block. Sim = Simeulue, Ni = Nias, Bt = Batu Islands, and Eng = Enggano. Brown rectangle centered at 2°S, 99°E delineates the area of Figure 3, highlighting the Mentawai Islands. Figure adapted from Meltzner et al. [2012] with rupture areas and magnitudes from Briggs et al. [2006], Konca et al. [2008], Meltzner et al. [2010], Hill et al. [2012], and references therein.

  • This is a figure from Philobosian et al. (2012) that shows a larger scale view for the slip patches in this region. Note that today’s earthquake happened at the edge of the 7.9 earthquake slip patch.

  • Recent and ancient ruptures along the Mentawai section of the Sunda megathrust. Colored patches are surface projections of 1-m slip contours of the deep megathrust ruptures on 12–13 September 2007 (pink to red) and the shallow rupture on 25 October 2010 (green). Dashed rectangles indicate roughly the sections that ruptured in 1797 and 1833. Ancient ruptures are adapted from Natawidjaja et al. [2006] and recent ones come from Konca et al. [2008] and Hill et al. (submitted manuscript, 2012). Labeled points indicate coral study sites Sikici (SKC), Pasapuat (PSP), Simanganya (SMY), Pulau Pasir (PSR), and Bulasat (BLS).

  • Here are a series of figures from Chlieh et al. (2008 ) that show their data sources and their modeling results. I include their figure captions below in blockquote.
  • This figure shows the coupling model (on the left) and the source data for their inversions (on the right). Their source data are vertical deformation rates as measured along coral microattols. These are from data prior to the 2004 SASZ earthquake.

  • Distribution of coupling on the Sumatra megathrust derived from the formal inversion of the coral and of the GPS data (Tables 2, 3, and 4) prior to the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake (model I-a in Table 7). (a) Distribution of coupling on the megathrust. Fully coupled areas are red, and fully creeping areas are white. Three strongly coupled patches are revealed beneath Nias island, Siberut island, and Pagai island. The annual moment deficit rate corresponding to that model is 4.0 X 10^20 N m/a. (b) Observed (black vectors) and predicted (red vectors) horizontal velocities appear. Observed and predicted vertical displacements are shown by color-coded large and small circles, respectively. The Xr^2 of this model is 3.9 (Table 7).

  • This is a similar figure, but based upon observations between June 2005 and October 2006.

  • Distribution of coupling on the Sumatra megathrust derived from the formal inversion of the horizontal velocities and uplift rates derived from the CGPS measurements at the SuGAr stations (processed at SOPAC). To reduce the influence of postseismic deformation caused by the March 2005 Nias-Simeulue rupture, velocities were determined for the period between June 2005 and October 2006. (a) Distribution of coupling on the megathrust. Fully coupled areas are red and fully creeping areas are white. This model reveals strong coupling beneath the Mentawai Islands (Siberut, Sipora, and Pagai islands), offshore Padang city, and suggests that the megathrust south of Bengkulu city is creeping at the plate velocity. (b) Comparison of observed (green) and predicted (red) velocities. The Xr^2 associated to that model is 24.5 (Table 8).

  • This is a similar figure, but based on all the data.

  • Distribution of coupling on the Sumatra megathrust derived from the formal inversion of all the data (model J-a, Table 8). (a) Distribution of coupling on the megathrust. Fully coupled areas are red, and fully creeping areas are white. This model shows strong coupling beneath Nias island and beneath the Mentawai (Siberut, Sipora and Pagai) islands. The rate of accumulation of moment deficit is 4.5 X 10^20 N m/a. (b) Comparison of observed (black arrows for pre-2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and green arrows for post-2005 Nias earthquake) and predicted velocities (in red). Observed and predicted vertical displacements are shown by color-coded large and small circles (for the corals) and large and small diamonds (for the CGPS), respectively. The Xr^2 of this model is 12.8.

  • Here is the figure I included in the poster above.

  • Comparison of interseismic coupling along the megathrust with the rupture areas of the great 1797, 1833, and 2005 earthquakes. The southernmost rupture area of the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake lies north of our study area and is shown only for reference. Epicenters of the 2007 Mw 8.4 and Mw 7.9 earthquakes are also shown for reference. (a) Geometry of the locked fault zone corresponding to forward model F-f (Figure 6c). Below the Batu Islands, where coupling occurs in a narrow band, the largest earthquake for the past 260 years has been a Mw 7.7 in 1935 [Natawidjaja et al., 2004; Rivera et al., 2002]. The wide zones of coupling, beneath Nias, Siberut, and Pagai islands, coincide well with the source of great earthquakes (Mw > 8.5) in 2005 from Konca et al. [2007] and in 1797 and 1833 from Natawidjaja et al. [2006]. The narrow locked patch beneath the Batu islands lies above the subducting fossil Investigator Fracture Zone. (b) Distribution of interseismic coupling corresponding to inverse model J-a (Figure 10). The coincidence of the high coupling area (orange-red dots) with the region of high coseismic slip during the 2005 Nias-Simeulue earthquake suggests that strongly coupled patches during interseismic correspond to seismic asperities during megathrust ruptures. The source regions of the 1797 and 1833 ruptures also correlate well with patches that are highly coupled beneath Siberut, Sipora, and Pagai islands.

  • This figure shows the authors’ estimate for the moment deficit in this region of the subduction zone. This is an estimate of how much the plate convergence rate, that is estimated to accumulate as tectonic strain, will need to be released during subduction zone earthquakes.

  • Latitudinal distributions of seismic moment released by great historical earthquakes and of accumulated deficit of moment due to interseismic locking of the plate interface. Values represent integrals over half a degree of latitude. Accumulated interseismic deficits since 1797, 1833, and 1861 are based on (a) model F-f and (b) model J-a. Seismic moments for the 1797 and 1833 Mentawai earthquakes are estimated based on the work by Natawidjaja et al. [2006], the 2005 Nias-Simeulue earthquake is taken from Konca et al. [2007], and the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake is taken from Chlieh et al. [2007]. Postseismic moments released in the month that follows the 2004 earthquake and in the 11 months that follows the Nias-Simeulue 2005 earthquake are shown in red and green, respectively, based on the work by Chlieh et al. [2007] and Hsu et al. [2006].

  • For a review of the 2004 and 2005 Sumatra Andaman subduction zone (SASZ) earthquakes, please check out my Earthquake Report here. Below is the poster from that report. On that report page, I also include some information about the 2012 M 8.6 and M 8.2 Wharton Basin earthquakes.
    • I include some inset figures in the poster.
    • In the upper left corner, I include a map that shows the extent of historic earthquakes along the SASZ offshore of Sumatra. This map is a culmination of a variety of papers (summarized and presented in Patton et al., 2015).
    • In the upper right corner I include a figure that is presented by Chlieh et al. (2007). These figures show model results from several models. Each model is represented by a map showing the amount that the fault slipped in particular regions. I present this figure below.
    • In the lower right corner I present a figure from Prawirodirdjo et al. (2010). This figure shows the coseismic vertical and horizontal motions from the 2004 and 2005 earthquakes as measured at GPS sites.
    • In the lower left corner are the MMI intensity maps for the two SASZ earthquakes. Note these are at different map scales. I also include the MMI attenuation curves for these earthquakes below the maps. These plots show the reported MMI intensity data as they relate to two plots of modeled estimates (the orange and green lines). These green dots are from the USGS “Did You Feel It?” reports compared to the estimates of ground shaking from Ground Motion Prediction Equation (GMPE) estimates. GMPE are empirical relations between earthquakes and recorded seismologic observations from those earthquakes, largely controlled by distance to the fault, ray path (direction and material properties), and site effects (the local geology). When seismic waves propagate through sediment, the magnitude of the ground motions increases in comparison to when seismic waves propagate through bedrock. The orange line is a regression of data for the central and eastern US and the green line is a regression through data from the western US.


  • The 2004/2005 SASZ earthquakes also tended to load strain in the crust in different locations. On 2012.04.11 there was a series of strike-slip earthquakes in the India plate crust to the west of the 2004/2005 earthquakes. The two largest magnitudes for these earthquakes were M 8.6 and M 8.2. The M 8.6 is the largest strike-slip earthquake ever recorded.
  • On 2016.03.22 there was another large strike-slip earthquake in the India-Australia plate. This is probably related to this entire suite of subduction zone and intraplate earthquakes. I presented an interpretive poster about this M 7.8 earthquake here. Below is my interpretive poster for the M 7.8 earthquake. Here is the USGS website for this earthquake.
  • I include a map in the upper right corner that shows the historic earthquake rupture areas.

  • Here is a poster that shows some earthquakes in the Andaman Sea. This is from my earthquake report from 2015.11.08.

  • This map shows the fracture zones in the India-Australia plate.

References:

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Category(s): earthquake, education, geology, Indian Ocean, plate tectonics, subduction, sumatra

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