Category Archives: plate tectonics

Earthquake Report: Alaska

What a day. I started by waking up about 5:43 AM (about, heheh), which was 17 minutes before my alarm was set. I had a job interview at 8:30.

I went to the interview for a position working on tsunami geology. During the interview, everyone started getting phone calls and emails, there was an earthquake in Alaska. The main interviewer had to leave the interview to take a few calls. Pretty funny, before they left, they asked me what would I do. Perfect timing.

We all broke out our phones and started reviewing the early reports and hypothesizing. I thought this may be related to the earthquake in 2016, though that was much deeper.

Much has been written about this earthquake and I include tweets to summaries below in the social media section.

Today’s earthquake occurred along the convergent plate boundary in southern Alaska. This subduction zone fault is famous for the 1964 March 27 M = 9.2 megathrust earthquake. I describe this earthquake in more detail here.

During the 1964 earthquake, the downgoing Pacific plate slipped past the North America plate, including slip on “splay faults” (like the Patton fault, no relation, heheh). There was deformation along the seafloor that caused a transoceanic tsunami.

The Pacific plate has pre-existing zones of weakness related to fracture zones and spreading ridges where the plate formed and are offset. There was an earthquake in January 2016 that may have reactivated one of these fracture zones. This earthquake (M = 7.1) was very deep (~130 km), but still caused widespread damage.

There was also an earthquake associated with the faults in the Pacific plate, which is still having asftershocks, earlier this year. Here is my earthquake report for the 2018.01.24 M 7.9 earthquake. I prepared two update reports here and here.

Today’s earthquake was not on the megathrust fault interface and is extensional. I always have fun chatting with people new to subduction zones when we get to see an extensional earthquake at a convergent plate boundary. Because the earthquake was a normal earthquake (extensional) and it was rather deep, the possibility of a tsunami was quite small. However, there was a possibility that landslides could have triggered tsunami. However, these would be localized near the epicentral region.

The earthquake appears to have a depth of ~40 km and the USGS model for the megathrust fault (slab 2.0) shows the megathrust to be shallower than this earthquake. There are generally 2 ways that may explain the extensional earthquake: slab tension (the downgoing plate is pulling down on the slab, causing extension) or “bending moment” extension (as the plate bends downward, the top of the plate stretches out.

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 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 3.0 in one version.

I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • 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 2.0 contours plotted (Hayes, 2018), 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.li>

    Magnetic Anomalies

  • In the map below, I include a transparent overlay of the magnetic anomaly data from EMAG2 (Meyer et al., 2017). As oceanic crust is formed, it inherits the magnetic field at the time. At different points through time, the magnetic polarity (north vs. south) flips, the north pole becomes the south pole. These changes in polarity can be seen when measuring the magnetic field above oceanic plates. This is one of the fundamental evidences for plate spreading at oceanic spreading ridges (like the Gorda rise).
  • Regions with magnetic fields aligned like today’s magnetic polarity are colored red in the EMAG2 data, while reversed polarity regions are colored blue. Regions of intermediate magnetic field are colored light purple.
  • We can see the roughly east-west trends of these red and blue stripes. These lines are parallel to the ocean spreading ridges from where they were formed. The stripes disappear at the subduction zone because the oceanic crust with these anomalies is diving deep beneath the North America plate, so the magnetic anomalies from the overlying North America plate mask the evidence for the Pacific plate.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the upper left corner is a map of the plate boundary faults from IRIS, which shows seismicity with color representing depth. I place a blue star in the general location of today’s earthquake (same for other inset figures).
  • Below this map is a low-angle oblique view of the subduction zone.
  • In the lower right corner is a map that shows the isochrons (line of equal age) for the oceanic crust of the Pacific plate (Naugler and Wageman, 1973). Compare these lines with the magnetic anomalies in the main poster.
  • In the upper right corner is the USGS liquefaction susceptibility map which is now a standard map product for USGS earthquake pages (for earthquakes of sufficient size). There has been photos of road damage that appear to be the result of liquefaction induced slope failures. I presented this map product in my reports for the 2018.09.28 Sulawesi, Indonesia earthquake and tsunami.
  • Another new product from the USGS is an aftershock forecast. GNS (New Zealand) has been doing this for a while (I first noticed these following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake). I prepared a table from their data that lists the potential number of earthquakes for different magnitudes for different time periods. These estimates are basically based on the empirical evidence that aftershock size and number decay with time.
  • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity plotted.

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is a map for the earthquakes of magnitude greater than or equal to M 7.0 between 1900 and 2016. This is the USGS query that I used to make this map. One may locate the USGS web pages for all the earthquakes on this map by following that link.

  • Here is a cross section showing the differences of vertical deformation between the coseismic (during the earthquake) and interseismic (between earthquakes).

  • Here is a figure recently published in the 5th International Conference of IGCP 588 by the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Dept. of Natural Resources, State of Alaska (State of Alaska, 2015). This is derived from a figure published originally by Plafker (1969). There is a cross section included that shows how the slip was distributed along upper plate faults (e.g. the Patton Bay and Middleton Island faults).

Below is an educational video from the USGS that presents material about subduction zones and the 1964 earthquake and tsunami in particular.
Youtube Source IRIS

mp4 file for downloading.

    Credits:

  • Animation & graphics by Jenda Johnson, geologist
  • Directed by Robert F. Butler, University of Portland
  • U.S. Geological Survey consultants: Robert C. Witter, Alaska Science Center Peter J. Haeussler, Alaska Science Center
  • Narrated by Roger Groom, Mount Tabor Middle School

Geologic Fundamentals

  • 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 another way to look at these beach balls.
  • 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. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This is an image from the USGS that shows how, when an oceanic plate moves over a hotspot, the volcanoes formed over the hotspot form a series of volcanoes that increase in age in the direction of plate motion. The presumption is that the hotspot is stable and stays in one location. Torsvik et al. (2017) use various methods to evaluate why this is a false presumption for the Hawaii Hotspot.

  • A cutaway view along the Hawaiian island chain showing the inferred mantle plume that has fed the Hawaiian hot spot on the overriding Pacific Plate. The geologic ages of the oldest volcano on each island (Ma = millions of years ago) are progressively older to the northwest, consistent with the hot spot model for the origin of the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain. (Modified from image of Joel E. Robinson, USGS, in “This Dynamic Planet” map of Simkin and others, 2006.)

  • Here is a map from Torsvik et al. (2017) that shows the age of volcanic rocks at different locations along the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount Chain.

  • Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. White dots are the locations of radiometrically dated seamounts, atolls and islands, based on compilations of Doubrovine et al. and O’Connor et al. Features encircled with larger white circles are discussed in the text and Fig. 2. Marine gravity anomaly map is from Sandwell and Smith.

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Earthquake Report: Iran

This morning (my time) there was a possibly shallow earthquake in western Iran with a magnitude of M = 6.3. This earthquake occurred in the aftershock zone of the 2017.11.12 M 7.3 earthquake. Here is my report for the M 7.3 earthquake. Here are the USGS webpagea for the M 6.3 and M 7.3 earthquakes.

The M 7.3 earthquake was a reverse/thrust earthquake associated with tectonics of the Zagros fold and thrust belt. This plate boundary fault system is a section of the Alpide belt, a convergent plate boundary that extends from the west of the Straits of Gibraltar, through Europe (causing uplift of the Alps and subduction offshore of Greece), the Middle East, India (causing the uplift forming the Himalayas), then to end in eastern Indonesia (forming the continental collision zone between Australia and Indonesia).

Some of the earthquakes (including this one) are strike-slip earthquakes (see explanation of different earthquake types below in the geologic fundamentals section). So, one might ask why there are strike-slip earthquakes associated with a compressional earthquake?

As pointed out by Baptiste Gombert, these strike-slip earthquakes are are evidence of strain partitioning. Basically, when relative plate motion (the direction that plates are moving relative to each other) is not perpendicular or parallel to a tectonic fault, this oblique motion is partitioned into these perpendicular and parallel directions.

A great example of this type of strain partitioning is the plate boundary offshore of Sumatra where the India-Australia plate subducts beneath the Sunda plate (part of Eurasia). The plate boundary is roughly N45W (oriented to the northwest with an azimuth of 325°) and the relative plate motion direction is oriented closer to a north-south orientation. The relative plate motion perpendicular to the plate boundary is accommodated by earthquakes on the subduction. These earthquakes are oriented showing compression in a northeast direction. Along the axis of Sumatra is a huge strike-slip fault called the Great Sumatra fault. This fault is parallel to the plate boundary and accommodates relative plate motion parallel to the plate boundary. The Great Sumatra fault is a fault called a forearc sliver fault.

There are other examples of this elsewhere, like here in western Iran/eastern Iraq. Relative plate motion between the Arabia and Eurasia plates is oriented north-south, but the plate boundary is oriented northwest-southeast (just like the Sumatra example). So this oblique relative plate motion is partitioned into fault normal compression (the M 7.3 earthquake) and fault parallel shear (today’s M 6.3 earthquake).

There is also a strike-slip fault in the region of today’s M 6.3, the Khanaqin fault. So, given what we know about the tectonics and historic seismicity, I interpret today’s M 6.3 earthquake to have been a strike-slip earthquake associated with the Khanaqin fault, triggered by changes in stress by the M 7.3 earthquake. I could be incorrect and this earthquake could be unrelated to the > 7.3 earthquake.

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 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 5.0 in one version.

I include an inset map showing seismicity from 2016.11.22 through 2018.11.28 showing the aftershocks from the M 7.3 earthquake. Note the cluster of earthquakes to the south of the aftershock zone. This is a swarm with earthquakes in the lower to mid M 5 range. The earthquakes with mechanisms are compressional, oriented the same as the M 7.3.

I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • 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 some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the upper left corner is a map showing the regional plate boundary faults and some information about relative plate motions (Stern and Johnson, 2010). As for other inset figures, I plate a transparent cyan star in the general location of today’s M 6.3 earthquake.
  • In the lower left corner is a similarly scaled tectonic map from Scharf et al. (2015) showing more information about the amount of plate motion in the Tertiary (post 66 Ma). Note the contrast of the extension (in red) associated with the rifting in east Africa and the convergence (in blue) associated with the Alpide belt in this area.
  • In the upper right corner is a structural cross section showing the folding of the crust and rocks associated with the convergence at this plate boundary (Verges et al., 2011). I show the general location for this cross section on the map as a cyan line with balls on the ends.
  • In the lower left center is a map from Emami et al. (2010). This map shows how this convergent plate boundary creates topography (uplift and mountains) with color. Lower elevations are shown as yellow and green and higher elevations are shown as red and brown. Note the location of the Khanaqin fault, a left-lateral strike slip fault..
  • In the upper left center is a map showing a kinematic interpretation of the faulting in this area (Hessami, 2002). While the focus of this PhD dissertation is for the faulting in the southern Zagros system, they show relative plate motions and how the Khanaqin fault may accommodate this plate motion (oblique to Zagros).
  • In the lower right corner is a map showing USGS seismicity from 2016.11.22 through 2018.11.25 for earthquakes M ≥ 3.0. The spatial extent of this area is shown in a dashed white rectangle on the main map.
  • In the lower right center is the USGS seismic hazard map for the region (Jenkins et al., 2014).
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted.

  • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity plotted for earthquakes M ≥ 5.0.

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • The Alpide Belt, shown in this map, is a convergent plate boundary that extends from Australia to Portugal. This map shows the westernmost extent of this system. The convergence here drives uplift of the Himalayas and the European Alps. Subduction along the Makran and Sunda subduction zones are also part of this system.

  • Below is the tectonic map from Stern and Johnson (2010).

  • Simpli”ed map of the Arabian Plate, with plate boundaries, approximate plate convergence vectors, and principal geologic features. Note location of Central Arabian Magnetic Anomaly (CAMA).

  • Here is the Scharf et al., 2015 map.

  • Tectonic setting of the Arabian Plate. Red and blue coloured symbols indicate divergence and convergence with overall amount and age, respectively. Green arrows show present-day GPS values with respect to fixed Europa from Iran [21] and white arrow from Oman [22]. a – [23]; b – [20]; c – [18]; d – [19]; e – [14]; f – [15]; g – [8]; h – [16]; i – [17]

  • This is the Enami et al., 2010 figure.

  • Tectonic map of the Zagros Fold Belt showing the position and geometry of the Mountain Front Flexure (MFF). Earthquakes of M ≥ 5 are indicated by small black diamonds. Focal mechanisms from Talebian & Jackson (2004) are also shown, in black (Mw ≥ 5.3) and grey (Mw ≥ 5.3). KH, Khavir anticline; SI, Siah Kuh anticline; ZDF, Zagros Deformation Front.

  • This is the tectonic map from Hessami, 2002.

  • a) Earthquakes with mb > 5.0 (Jackson and McKenzie, 1984) along seismogenic basement thrusts offset by major strike-slip faults. b) Schematic interpretative map of the main structural features in the Zagros basement. The overall north-south motion of Arabia increases along the belt from NW to SE (arrows with numbers). Central Iran acted as a rigid backstop and caused the strike-slip faults with N-S trends in the west to bulge increasingly eastward. Fault blocks in the north (elongated NW-SE) rotate anticlockwise; while fault blocks in the south (elongated NE-SW) rotate clockwise. c) Simple model involving parallel paper sheets illustrating the observed strike-slip faults in the Zagros. Opening between the sheets (i.e. faults) helped salt diapirs to extrude.

  • Below are a series of figures from Verges et al., 2011. First is a map that shows the tectonics and locations of the cross section.

  • Tectonic map of the Zagros showing the location of the previously published cross-sections with the calculated amount of shortening and the extent of major hydrocarbon fields. The balanced cross-section is marked by the thick black line. M – Mand anticline. Dark grey: Naien-Baft ophiolites (Stöklin, 1968).

  • Here are the cross sections from Verges et al. (2011).

  • Structural cross-sections showing the style of folding across the studied regional transect (see location in Fig. 3). (a) The front of the Zagros Fold Belt along the Anaran anticline above the Mountain Front Flexure (MFF in Emami et al. 2010); (b) the Kabir Kuh anticline, which represents a multi-detachment fold (Vergés et al. 2010); (c) folds developed in the Upper Cretaceous basinal stratigraphy showing much tighter and upright anticlines (modified from Casciello et al. 2009).

  • Here is a map that displays an estimate of seismic hazard for the region (Jenkins et al., 2010). This comes from Giardini et al. (1999).

  • The Global Seismic Hazard Map. Peak ground acceleration (pga) with a 10% chance of exceedance in 50 years is depicted in m/s2. The site classification is rock everywhere except Canada and the United States, which assume rock/firm soil site classifications. White and green correspond to low seismicity hazard (0%-8%g), yellow and orange correspond to moderate seismic hazard (8%-24%g), pink and dark pink correspond to high seismicity hazard (24%-40%g), and red and brown correspond to very high seismic hazard (greater than 40%g).

  • Just found this as it as posted to the Bertrand tweet (see social media below). This is a figure from Talebian and Jackson (2004) that uses Sumatra as an analogue to the oblique convergence along the Zagros thrust. Pretty cool.

  • (a) Summary sketch of the tectonic pattern in the Zagros. Overall Arabia–Eurasia motions are shown by the big white arrows, as before. In the NW Zagros (Borujerd-Dezful), oblique shortening is partitioned into right-lateral strike-slip on the Main Recent Fault (MRF) and orthogonal shortening (large gray arrows). In the SE Zagros (Bandar Abbas) no strike-slip is necessary, as the shortening is parallel to the overall convergence. The central Zagros (Shiraz) is where the transition between these two regimes occurs, with anticlockwise rotating strike-slip faults allowing an along-strike extension (black arrows) between Bandar Abbas and Dezful. (b) A similar sketch for the Himalaya (after McCaffrey & N´abˇelek 1998). In this case the overall Tibet-India motion is likely to be slightly west of north. (The India-Eurasia motion is about 020◦, but Tibet moves east relative to both India and Eurasia: Wang et al. 2001). Thrust faulting slip vectors are radially outward around the entire arc (gray arrows). This leads to partitioning of the oblique convergence in the west, where right-lateral strike-slip is prominent on the Karakoram Fault, but no strike-slip in the east, where the convergence and shortening are parallel. The region in between extends parallel to the arc, on normal faults in southern Tibet. (c) A similar sketch for the Java–Sumatra arc, based on McCaffrey (1991). Slip partitioning occurs in the NW, with strike-slip faulting through Sumatra, but not in the SE, near Java. This change along the zone requires the Java–Sumatra forearc to extend along strike.

Geologic Fundamentals

  • 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 another way to look at these beach balls.
  • 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. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This is an image from the USGS that shows how, when an oceanic plate moves over a hotspot, the volcanoes formed over the hotspot form a series of volcanoes that increase in age in the direction of plate motion. The presumption is that the hotspot is stable and stays in one location. Torsvik et al. (2017) use various methods to evaluate why this is a false presumption for the Hawaii Hotspot.

  • A cutaway view along the Hawaiian island chain showing the inferred mantle plume that has fed the Hawaiian hot spot on the overriding Pacific Plate. The geologic ages of the oldest volcano on each island (Ma = millions of years ago) are progressively older to the northwest, consistent with the hot spot model for the origin of the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain. (Modified from image of Joel E. Robinson, USGS, in “This Dynamic Planet” map of Simkin and others, 2006.)

  • Here is a map from Torsvik et al. (2017) that shows the age of volcanic rocks at different locations along the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount Chain.

  • Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. White dots are the locations of radiometrically dated seamounts, atolls and islands, based on compilations of Doubrovine et al. and O’Connor et al. Features encircled with larger white circles are discussed in the text and Fig. 2. Marine gravity anomaly map is from Sandwell and Smith.

    References:

  • Allen, M.B., Saville, C., Blac, E.K-P., Talebian, M., and Nissen, E., 2013. Orogenic plateau growth: Expansion of the Turkish-Iranian Plateau across the Zagros fold-and-thrust belt in Tectonics, v. 32, p. 171-190, doi:10.1002/tect.20025
  • Emami, H., Verges, J., nalpas, T., Gillespie, P., Sharp, I., Karpuz, R., Blanc, E.P., and Goodarzi, G.H., 2010. Structure of the Mountain Front Flexure along the Anaran anticline in the Pusht-e Kuh Arc (NW Zagros, Iran): insights from sand box models in LETURMY, P. & ROBIN, C. (eds) Tectonic and Stratigraphic Evolution of Zagros and Makran during the Mesozoic–Cenozoic. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 330, 155–178.
  • Giardini, D., Grunthal, G., Shedlock, K., Zhang. P., and Global Seismic Hazards Program, 1999. Global seismic hazards map: Accessed on Jan. 9, 2007 at http://www.seismo.ethz.ch/GSHAP.
  • Hessami, K., 2002. Tectonic History and Present-Day Deformation in the Zagros Fold-Thrust Belt, PhD for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Mineralogy, Petrology, and Tectonics presented at Uppsala University in 2002, ISBN 91-554-5285-5
  • Jenkins, Jennifer, Turner, Bethan, Turner, Rebecca, Hayes, G.P., Sinclair, Alison, Davies, Sian, Parker, A.L., Dart, R.L., Tarr, A.C., Villaseñor, Antonio, and Benz, H.M., compilers, 2013, Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Middle East and vicinity (ver 1.1, Jan. 28, 2014): U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-K, scale 1:7,000,000, https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1083/k/.
  • Scharf, A., Mattern, F., and Al Sadi, S., 2016. Kinematics of Post-obduction Deformation of the Tertiary Ridge at Al-Khod Village (Muscat Area, Oman) in SQU Journal for Science, v. 21, no. 1, p. 26-40
  • Stern, R.J. and Johnson, P., 2010. Continental lithosphere of the Arabian Plate: A geologic, petrologic, and geophysical synthesis in Earth-Science Reviews, v. 101, p. 29-67.
  • Talebian and Jackson, 2004. A reappraisal of earthquake focal mechanisms and active shortening in the Zagros mountains of Iran in GJI, v. 156, no. 3, P. 506–526, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2004.02092.x
  • Taymaz, T., Yilmaz, Y., and Dilek, Y., 2007. The geodynamics of the Aegean and Anatolia: introduction in Geological Society, London, Special Publications, v. 291; p. 1-16, doi:10.1144/SP291.1
  • Verges, J., Saura, E., Casciello, E., Fernandez, M., Villasenor, A., Jimenez-Munt, I., and Garcia-Castellanos, D., 2011. Crustal-scale cross-sections across the NW Zagros belt: implications for the Arabian margin reconstruction in Geol. Mag, v. 148, no. 5-6, p. 739-761, doi:10.1017/S0016756811000331
  • Woudloper, 2009. Tectonic map of southern Europe and the Middle East, showing tectonic structures of the western Alpide mountain belt.

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Earthquake Report: Explorer plate

Last night I had completed preparing for class the next day. I was about to head to bed. I got an email from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center notifying me that there was no risk of a tsunami due to an earthquake with a magnitude M 6.6. I noticed it was along the Sovanco fault, a transform fault (right-lateral strike-slip). Strike slip faults can produce tsunami, but they are smaller than tsunami generated along subduction zones. The recent M = 7.5 Donggala Earthquake in Sulawesi, Indonesia is an example of a tsunami generated in response to a strike-slip earthquake (tho coseismic landslides may be part of the story there too).

I thought I could put together a map in short time as I already had a knowledge base for this area (e.g. earthquake reports from 2017.01.07 and 2016.03.18). However, as I was creating base maps in Google Earth, before I completed making a set (the posters below each take 4 different basemaps displayed at different transparencies), there was the M 6.8 earthquake. Then there was the M 6.6 earthquake. I had to start all over. Twice. Heheh.

This region of the Pacific-North America plate boundary is at the northern end of the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ). To the east, the Explorer and Juan de Fuca plates subduct beneath the North America plate to form the megathrust subduction zone fault capable of producing earthquakes in the magnitude M = 9 range. The last CSZ earthquake was in January of 1700, just almost 319 years ago.

The Juan de Fuca plate is created at an oceanic spreading center called the Juan de Fuca Ridge. This spreading ridge is offset by several transform (strike-slip) faults. At the southern terminus of the JDF Ridge is the Blanco fault, a transtensional transform fault connecting the JDF and Gorda ridges.

At the northern terminus of the JDF Ridge is the Sovanco transform fault that strikes to the northwest of the JDF Ridge. There are additional fracture zones parallel and south of the Sovanco fault, called the Heck, Heckle, and Springfield fracture zones.

The first earthquake (M = 6.6) appears to have slipped along the Sovanco fault as a right-lateral strike-slip earthquake. Then the M 6.8 earthquake happened and, given the uncertainty of the location for this event, occurred on a fault sub-parallel to the Sovanco fault. Then the M 6.5 earthquake hit, back on the Sovanco fault.

So, I would consider the M 6.6 to be a mainshock that triggered the M 6.8. The M 6.5 is an aftershock of the M 6.6.

Based upon our knowledge of how individual earthquakes can change the stress (or strain) in the surrounding earth, it is unlikely that this earthquake sequence changed the stress on the megathrust. Over time, hundreds of these earthquakes do affect the potential for earthquakes on the CSZ megathrust. But, individual earthquakes (or even a combination of these 3 earthquakes) do not change the chance that there will be an earthquake on the CSZ megathrust. The chance of an earthquake tomorrow is about the same as the chance of an earthquake today. Day to day the chances don’t change much. However, year to year, the chances of an earthquake get higher and higher. But of course, we cannot predict when an earthquake will happen.

So, if we live, work, or play in earthquake country, it is best to always be prepared for an earthquake, for tsunami, and for landslides.

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 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 6.5 in one version.

I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.

I include the earthquake mechanisms for 2 special earthquakes that happened in the past two decades along this plate boundary system. In 2001 the M 6.8 Nisqually earthquake struck the Puget Sound region of Washington causing extensive damage. This earthquake was an extensional earthquake in the downgoing JDF plate. The damage was extensive because the earthquake was close to an urban center, where there was lots of infrastructure to be damaged (the closer to an earthquake, the higher the shaking intensity).

In 2012 was a M = 7.8 earthquake along the northern extension of the CSZ. The northern part of the CSZ is a very interesting region, often called the Queen Charlotte triple junction. There are some differences than the Mendocino triple junction to the south, in northern California. There continues to be some debate about how the plate boundary faults are configured here. The Queen Charlotte is a right lateral strike slip fault that extends from south of Haida Gwaii (the large island northwest of Vancouver Island) up northwards, where it is called the Fairweather fault. There are several large strike-slip earthquakes on the Queen Charlotte/Fairweather fault system in the 20th century. However, the 2012 earthquake was a subduction zone fault, evidence that the CSZ megathrust (or some semblance of this subduction zone) extends beneath Haida Gwaii (so the CSZ and QCF appear to over lap).

  • 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 2.0 contours plotted (Hayes, 2018), 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.li>

    Magnetic Anomalies

  • In the map below, I include a transparent overlay of the magnetic anomaly data from EMAG2 (Meyer et al., 2017). As oceanic crust is formed, it inherits the magnetic field at the time. At different points through time, the magnetic polarity (north vs. south) flips, the north pole becomes the south pole. These changes in polarity can be seen when measuring the magnetic field above oceanic plates. This is one of the fundamental evidences for plate spreading at oceanic spreading ridges (like the Gorda rise).
  • Regions with magnetic fields aligned like today’s magnetic polarity are colored red in the EMAG2 data, while reversed polarity regions are colored blue. Regions of intermediate magnetic field are colored light purple.
  • We can see the roughly northeast-southwest trends of these red and blue stripes in the JDF and Pacific plates. These lines are parallel to the ocean spreading ridges from where they were formed. The stripes disappear at the subduction zone because the oceanic crust with these anomalies is diving deep beneath the Sunda plate (part of Eurasia), so the magnetic anomalies from the overlying North America plate (and accretionary prism) mask the evidence for the JDF plate.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • 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 place a blue star in the general location of today’s seismicity.
  • In the upper left corner is a map showing the plate boundary faults associated with the northern CSZ and to the north (including the Queen Charlotte fault; Braunmiller and Nabalek, 2002). I place a red star in the general location of today’s seismicity. These earthquakes occurred in the region east of the Explorer rift. This region of the world still contains some major tectonic mysteries and this is quite exciting. This shows the Winona Block as a microplate between the Pacific and North America plates, north of the Explorer plate. The Winona Block is labeled “WIN BLOCK” on the map. Note that there are two spreading ridges on the western and central part of this block. It is possible that the Explorer ridge-rift system extends into the Winona Block to form a third spreading ridge in the Winona Block.
  • In the lower left corner is a map from Dziak (2006). Dziak (2006) used bathymetric and seismologic data to evaluate the faulting in the region and discussed how the Explorer plate is accommodating a reorganization of the plate boundary.
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted.


  • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity plotted.


  • Here is a video showing the earthquake epicenters for the period of 1900-2017 for USGS earthquakes with magnitudes M ≥ 5.0. Here is a link to the embedded video below (2.5 MB mp4). Note how the earthquakes that happen between the northern terminus of the JDF Ridge and the southern terminus of the Queen Charlotte fault form a wide band (not a stepwise patter that might reflect steps in ridges and spreading centers). This pattern is key to unravelling the mysteries of the western Explorer plate.
    • Here is the map with the seismicity from 1900-2017 plotted. These are USGS earthquakes with magnitudes M ≥ 7.0 for this time period. I include the moment tensors from the 2012 and 2013 earthquakes (the only earthquakes for this time period that have USGS moment tensors). The 2012 earthquake generated a tsunami. I discuss the 2012 “Haida Gwaii” earthquake here.


Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is the general tectonic map of the region (Braunmiller and Nabalek, 2002). Today’s earthquakes happened in a place that suggest the Explorer ridge extends further to the north into the Winona Block. Below I include the text from the original figure caption in blockquote.

  • Map of Explorer region and surroundings. Plate boundaries are based on Riddihough’s [1984] and Davis and Riddihough’s [1982] tectonic models. Solid lines are active plate boundaries (single lines are transform faults, double lines are spreading centers, barbed lines are subduction zones with barbs in downgoing plate direction). The wide double line outlines the width of the Sovanco fracture zone, and the dots sketch the Explorer-Winona boundary. Plate motion vectors (solid arrows) are from NUVEL-1A [DeMets et al., 1994] for Pacific-North America motion and from Wilson [1993] for Pacific-Juan de Fuca and Juan de Fuca-North America motion. Open arrows are Explorer relative plate motions averaged over last 1 Myr [Riddihough, 1984] (in text, we refer to these most recent magnetically determined plate motions as the ‘‘Riddihough model’’). Winona block motions (thin arrows), described only qualitatively by Davis and Riddihough [1982], are not to scale. Abbreviations are RDW for Revere-Dellwood- Wilson, Win for Winona, FZ for fault zone, I for island, S for seamount, Pen for peninsula.

  • Here is the larger scale figure that shows the details of the plate boundary in this region (Braunmiller and Nabalek, 2002). Below I include the text from the original figure caption in blockquote.

  • Close-up of the Pacific-Explorer boundary. Plotted are fault plane solutions (gray scheme as in Figure 3) and well-relocated earthquake epicenters. The SeaBeam data are from the RIDGE Multibeam Synthesis Project (http://imager.ldeo.columbia.edu) at the Lamont-Doherty Earth observatory. Epicenters labeled by solid triangles are pre-1964, historical earthquakes (see Appendix B). Solid lines mark plate boundaries inferred from bathymetry and side-scan data [Davis and Currie, 1993]; dashed were inactive. QCF is Queen Charlotte fault, TW are Tuzo Wilson seamounts, RDW is Revere-Dellwood-Wilson fault, DK are Dellwood Knolls, PRR is Paul Revere ridge, ER is Explorer Rift, ED is Explorer Deep, SERg is Southern Explorer ridge, ESM is Explorer seamount, SETB is Southwest Explorer Transform Boundary, SAT is Southwestern Assimilated Territory, ESDZ is Eastern Sovanco Deformation Zone, HSC is Heck seamount chain, WV is active west valley of Juan de Fuca ridge, MV is inactive middle valley.

  • This is the figure that shows an interpretation of how this plate boundary formed over the past 3 Ma (Braunmiller and Nabalek, 2002). Below I include the text from the original figure caption in blockquote.

  • Schematic plate tectonic reconstruction of Explorer region during the last 3 Myr. Note the transfer of crustal blocks (hatched) from the Explorer to the Pacific plate; horizontal hatch indicates transfer before 1.5 Ma and vertical hatch transfer since then. Active boundaries are shown in bold and inactive boundaries are thin dashes. Single lines are transform faults, double lines are spreading centers; barbed lines are subduction zones with barbs in downgoing plate direction. QCF is Queen Charlotte fault, TW are the Tuzo Wilson seamounts, RDW is Revere-Dellwood-Wilson fault, DK are the Dellwood Knolls, ED is Explorer Deep, ER is Explorer Rift, ERg is Explorer Ridge, ESM is Explorer Seamount, SOV is Sovanco fracture zone, ESDZ is Eastern Sovanco Deformation Zone, JRg is Juan de Fuca ridge, and NF is Nootka fault. The question mark indicates ambiguity whether spreading offshore Brooks peninsula ceased when the Dellwood Knolls became active (requiring only one independently moving plate) or if both spreading centers, for a short time span, where active simultaneously (requiring Winona block motion independent from Explorer plate during that time).

  • Below I include some inset maps from Audet et al. (2008 ) and Dziak (2006). Each of these authors have published papers about the Explorer plate. Dziak (2006) used bathymetric and seismologic data to evaluate the faulting in the region and discussed how the Explorer plate is accommodating a reorganization of the plate boundary. Audet et al. (2008 ) use terrestrial seismic data to evaluate the crust along northern Vancouver Island and present their tectonic map as part of this research (though they do not focus on the offshore part of the Explorer plate). I include these figures below along with their figure captions. Today’s earthquakes happened at the northwestern portion of these maps from Dziak (2006).
  • Dziak, 2006

  • This map shows the shape of the seafloor in this region and there is an inset map that shows the major fault systems here.

  • Bathymetric map of northern Juan de Fuca and Explorer Ridges. Map is composite of multibeam bathymetry and satellite altimetry (Sandwell and Smith, 1997). Principal structures are labeled: ERB—Explorer Ridge Basin, SSL—strike-slip lineation. Inset map shows conventional tectonic interpretation of region. Dashed box shows location of main figure. Solid lines are active plate boundaries, dashed line shows Winona-Explorer boundary, gray ovals represent seamount chains. Solid arrows show plate motion vectors from NUVEL-1A (DeMets et al., 1994) for Pacific–North America and from Wilson (1993) for Pacific–Juan de Fuca and Juan de Fuca–North America. Open arrows are Explorer relative motion averaged over past 1 m.y. (Riddihough, 1984). Abbreviations: RDW—Revere-Dellwood-Wilson,Win—Winona block, C.O.—Cobb offset, F.Z.—fracture zone. Endeavour segment is northernmost section of Juan de Fuca Ridge.

  • This map shows the line work Dziak (2006) used to delineate the structures shown in the bathymetric map.

  • Structural interpretation map of Explorer–Juan de Fuca plate region based on composite multibeam bathymetry and satellite altimetry data (Fig. 1). Heavy lines are structural (fault) lineations, gray circles and ovals indicate volcanic cones and seamounts, dashed lines are turbidite channels. Location of magnetic anomaly 2A is shown; boundaries are angled to show regional strike of anomaly pattern.

  • This map shows the seismicity patterns (this matches the patterns in the animation above).

  • Earthquake locations estimated using U.S. Navy hydrophone arrays that occurred between August 1991 and January 2002. Focal mechanisms are of large (Mw>4.5) earthquakes that occurred during same time period, taken from Pacific Geoscience Center, National Earthquake Information Center, and Harvard moment-tensor catalogs. Red mechanism shows location of 1992 Heck Seamount main shock.

  • Here Dziak (2006) shows how they interpret that this plate boundary is being reconfigured with time. Like the rest of the adjacent plate boundary (Queen Charlotte/Fairweather, Cascadia, San Andreas), there is an overall dextral (right-lateral) shear couple between the North America and Pacific plates. Some of the existing structures represent the orientation of faults from an earlier strain field. Eventually through going faults will align with the band of seismicity in the above map and above animation. At least, that is one hypothesis. Seems reasonable to me, given the very short record of earthquakes.

  • Tectonic model of Explorer plate boundaries. Evidence presented here is consistent with zone of shear extending through Explorer plate well south of Sovanco Fracture Zone (SFZ) to include Heck, Heckle, and Springfield seamounts, and possibly Cobb offset (gray polygon roughly outlines shear zone). Moreover, Pacific– Juan de Fuca–North American triple junction may be reorganizing southward to establish at Cobb offset. QCF—Queen Charlotte fault.

  • From Audet et al. (2008), here is another view of the fault system in this part of the plate boundary.

  • Identification of major tectonic features in western Canada. BP—Brooks Peninsula, BPfz—Brooks Peninsula fault zone, NI— Nootka Island, QCTJ—Queen Charlotte triple junction. Dotted lines delineate extinct boundaries or shear zones. Seismic stations are displayed as inverted black triangles. Station projections along line 1 and line 2 are plotted as thick white lines. White triangles represent Alert Bay volcanic field centers. Center of array locates town of Woss. Plates: N-A—North America; EXP—Explorer; JdF—Juan de Fuca; PAC—Pacific.

  • Speaking of the Queen Charlotte/Fairweather fault system, here is another map that shows the tectonics of this region. Hyndman (2015) shows the region where the 2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake ruptured. I include two more figures below. This figure Below I include the text from the original figure caption in blockquote.

  • The Queen Charlotte fault (QCF) zone, the islands of Haida Gwaii and adjacent area, and the locations of the 2012 Mw 7.8 (ellipse), 2013 Mw 7.5 (solid line), and 1949 Ms 8.1 (dashed) earthquakes. The along margin extent of the 1949 event is not well constrained.

  • This map shows the main and aftershocks from the 2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake sequence (Hyndman, 2015). This 2012 sequence is interesting because, prior to these earthquakes, it was unclear whether the fault along Haida Gwaii was a strike-slip or a thrust fault. For example, Riddihough (1984) suggests that there is no subduction going on along the Explorer plate at all. Turns out it is probably both. When this 2012 earthquake happened, I took a look at the bathymetry in Google Earth and noticed the Queen Charlotte Terrace, which looks suspiciously like an accretionary prism. This was convincing evidence for the thrust fault earthquakes. Below I include the text from the original figure caption in blockquote.

  • Aftershocks of the 2012 Mw 7.8 Haida Gwaii thrust 13 earthquake (after Cassidy et al., 2013). They approximately define the rupture area. The normal-faulting mechanisms for two of the larger aftershocks are also shown. Many of the aftershocks are within the incoming oceanic plate and within the overriding continental plate rather than on the thrust rupture plane.

  • This is a great version of this figure that shows how there are overlapping subduction (thrust) and transform (strike-slip) faults along the Haida Gwaii region (Hyndman, 2015). Below I include the text from the original figure caption in blockquote.

  • Model for the 2012 Mw 7.8 earthquake rupture and the partitioning of oblique convergence into margin parallel motion on the Queen Charlotte transcurrent fault and nearly orthogonal thrust convergence on the Haida Gwaii thrust fault.

  • Here is a figure that shows two ways of interpreting the Queen Charlotte triple junction region (Kreemer et al., 1998). Note the 1900-2017 seismicity map above, which supports the interpretation in the right panel (B). Something of trivial nature is that this article is from the pre-computer illustration era (see the squiggly hand drawn arrow in the right panel B). Below I include the text from the original figure caption in blockquote.

  • (A) Major tectonic features describing the micro-plate model for the Explorer region. The Explorer plate (EXP) is an independent plate and is in convergent motion towards the North American plate (NAM). V.I. D Vancouver Island; PAC D the Pacific plate; JdF D the Juan the Fuca plate. The accentuated zone between the Explorer and JdF ridges is the Sovanco transform zone and the two boundary lines do not indicate the presence of faults but define the boundaries of this zone of complex deformation. (B) The key features of the pseudo-plate model for the region are a major plate boundary transform fault zone between the North American and Pacific plates and the Nootka Transform, a left-lateral transform fault north of the Juan the Fuca plate.

Geologic Fundamentals

  • 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 another way to look at these beach balls.
  • 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. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This is an image from the USGS that shows how, when an oceanic plate moves over a hotspot, the volcanoes formed over the hotspot form a series of volcanoes that increase in age in the direction of plate motion. The presumption is that the hotspot is stable and stays in one location. Torsvik et al. (2017) use various methods to evaluate why this is a false presumption for the Hawaii Hotspot.

  • A cutaway view along the Hawaiian island chain showing the inferred mantle plume that has fed the Hawaiian hot spot on the overriding Pacific Plate. The geologic ages of the oldest volcano on each island (Ma = millions of years ago) are progressively older to the northwest, consistent with the hot spot model for the origin of the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain. (Modified from image of Joel E. Robinson, USGS, in “This Dynamic Planet” map of Simkin and others, 2006.)

  • Here is a map from Torsvik et al. (2017) that shows the age of volcanic rocks at different locations along the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount Chain.

  • Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. White dots are the locations of radiometrically dated seamounts, atolls and islands, based on compilations of Doubrovine et al. and O’Connor et al. Features encircled with larger white circles are discussed in the text and Fig. 2. Marine gravity anomaly map is from Sandwell and Smith.


    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.
  • Braunmiller, J. and Nabelek, J., 2002. Seismotectonics of the Explorer region in JGR, v. 107, NO. B10, 2208, doi:10.1029/2001JB000220, 2002
  • 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.
  • Audet, P., Bostock, M.G., Mercier, J.-P., and Cassidy, J.F., 2008., Morphology of the Explorer–Juan de Fuca slab edge in northern Cascadia: Imaging plate capture at a ridge-trench-transform triple junction in Geology, v. 36, p. 895-898.
  • Clarke, S. H., and Carver, G. C., 1992. Late Holocene Tectonics and Paleoseismicity, Southern Cascadia Subduction Zone, Science, vol. 255:188-192.
  • Dziak, R.P., 2006. Explorer deformation zone: Evidence of a large shear zone and reorganization of the Pacific–Juan de Fuca–North American triple junction in Geology, v. 34, p. 213-216.
  • Flück, P., Hyndman, R. D., Rogers, G. C., and Wang, K., 1997. Three-Dimensional Dislocation Model for Great Earthquakes of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 102: 20,539-20,550.
  • Heaton, f f., Kanamori, F. F., 1984. Seismic Potential Associated with Subduction in the Northwest United States, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, vol. 74: 933-941.
  • Hyndman, R. D., and Wang, K., 1995. The rupture zone of Cascadia great earthquakes from current deformation and the thermal regime, Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 100: 22,133-22,154.
  • Keemer, C., Govers, R., Furlong, K.P., and Holt, W.E., 1998. Plate boundary deformation between the Pacific and North America in the Explorer region in Tectonophysics, v. 293, p. 225-238.
  • Meyer, B., Saltus, R., Chulliat, a., 2017. EMAG2: Earth Magnetic Anomaly Grid (2-arc-minute resolution) Version 3. National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA. Model. doi:10.7289/V5H70CVX
  • McPherson, R. M., 1989. Seismicity and Focal Mechanisms Near Cape Mendocino, Northern California: 1974-1984: M. S. thesis, Arcata, California, Humboldt State University, 75 p
  • 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
  • Plafker, G., 1972. Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and Chilean earthquake of 1960: Implications for arc tectonics in Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 77, p. 901-925.
  • Riddihough, R., 1984. Recent Movements of the Juan de Fuca Plate System in JGR, v. 89, no. B8, p. 6980-6994.
  • Wang, K., Wells, R., Mazzotti, S., Hyndman, R. D., and Sagiya, T., 2003. A revised dislocation model of interseismic deformation of the Cascadia subduction zone Journal of Geophysical Research, B, Solid Earth and Planets v. 108, no. 1.

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.

Earthquake Report: New Britain!

Just a few hours there was a subduction zone megathrust earthquake along the New Britain Trench in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean.

In this region of the world, the Solomon Sea plate and the South Bismarck plate converge to form a subduction zone, where the Solomon Sea plate is the oceanic crust diving beneath the S.Bismarck plate.

The subduction zone forms the New Britain Trench with an axis that trends east-northeast. To the east of New Britain, the subduction zone bends to the southeast to form the San Cristobal and South Solomon trenches. Between these two subduction zones is a series of oceanic spreading ridges sequentially offset by transform (strike slip) faults.

Earthquakes along the megathrust at the New Britain trench are oriented with the maximum compressive stress oriented north-northwest (perpendicular to the trench). Likewise, the subduction zone megathrust earthquakes along the S. Solomon trench compress in a northeasterly direction (perpendicular to that trench).

There is also a great strike slip earthquake that shows that the transform faults are active.

This earthquake was too small and too deep to generate a tsunami.

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 1918-2018 with magnitudes M ≥ 7.5 in one version.

I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.

  • 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 2.0 contours plotted (Hayes, 2018), 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.li>

    Magnetic Anomalies

  • In the map below, I include a transparent overlay of the magnetic anomaly data from EMAG2 (Meyer et al., 2017). As oceanic crust is formed, it inherits the magnetic field at the time. At different points through time, the magnetic polarity (north vs. south) flips, the north pole becomes the south pole. These changes in polarity can be seen when measuring the magnetic field above oceanic plates. This is one of the fundamental evidences for plate spreading at oceanic spreading ridges (like the Gorda rise).
  • Regions with magnetic fields aligned like today’s magnetic polarity are colored red in the EMAG2 data, while reversed polarity regions are colored blue. Regions of intermediate magnetic field are colored light purple.
  • We can see the roughly east-west trends of these red and blue stripes. These lines are parallel to the ocean spreading ridges from where they were formed. These stripes make evident the spreading centers south of the Solomon Sea plate, forming the Woodlark Basin. Note how the color bands along the spreading centers (orange arrows pointing in direction of plate motion). What color are they? Why?

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the upper left corner is a general overview of the plate boundaries and mapped faults in the region (Koulali et al., 2015). I place a blue star in the general location of the M 7.0 epicenter.
  • In the upper right corner is a more detailed tectonic map of the region, showing the ways that the S. Bismark plate is dissected by strike-slip faults. The active volcanoes are shown as red stars.
  • In the lower left corner are a couple figures Dr. Stephen Hicks prepared in response to an earthquake sequence earlier in 2018. On the left is a map showing recently observed seismicity. The seismicity that lies within the dashed box is used to plot the earthquakes with depth (the hypocenters). The March 2018 earthquakes are in yellow and orange. Today’s M 7.0 is shown as a blue star on both plots. The location of profile A-A’ is located in the general location on the earthquake interpretive poster.
  • Above these figures is a figure pair from Holm & Richards (2013). On the left is a map that shows land in green and the subducting Solomon Sea plate in black that turns orange with depth. The image on the right is a low angle oblique view of the slab, shoing the shape of the plate in 3-D. Note the tear in the slab. Read more about this below.
  • Here is the map with a month’s seismicity plotted.

  • Here is the map with a century’s seismicity plotted.

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here are the figures presented by Dr. Hicks.
  • On March 26, 2018 there was an M 6.6 earthquake. Steve prepared these figures. 3 days later there was an M 6.9, which made the M 6.6 a foreshock.
  • Today’s earthquake sequence also included a foreshock-mainshock sequence. There was an M 6.1 and 3 minutes later there was the M 7.0, making the M 6.1 a foreshock. We do not know if an earthquake is a foreshock until there is a larger magnitude earthquake later.

Here is a visualization of the seismicity as presented by Dr. Steve Hicks.

  • Here is the generalized tectonic map of the region from Holm et al., 2015. I include the figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • 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 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.

  • This map shows plate velocities and euler poles for different blocks. Note the counterclockwise motion of the plate that underlies the Solomon Sea (Baldwin et al., 2012). 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). The New Britain region is in the map near the A and B 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.

Geologic Fundamentals

  • 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 another way to look at these beach balls.
  • 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. The following three animations are from IRIS.
  • Strike Slip:

    Compressional:

    Extensional:

  • This is an image from the USGS that shows how, when an oceanic plate moves over a hotspot, the volcanoes formed over the hotspot form a series of volcanoes that increase in age in the direction of plate motion. The presumption is that the hotspot is stable and stays in one location. Torsvik et al. (2017) use various methods to evaluate why this is a false presumption for the Hawaii Hotspot.

  • A cutaway view along the Hawaiian island chain showing the inferred mantle plume that has fed the Hawaiian hot spot on the overriding Pacific Plate. The geologic ages of the oldest volcano on each island (Ma = millions of years ago) are progressively older to the northwest, consistent with the hot spot model for the origin of the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamount Chain. (Modified from image of Joel E. Robinson, USGS, in “This Dynamic Planet” map of Simkin and others, 2006.)

  • Here is a map from Torsvik et al. (2017) that shows the age of volcanic rocks at different locations along the Hawaii-Emperor Seamount Chain.

  • Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. White dots are the locations of radiometrically dated seamounts, atolls and islands, based on compilations of Doubrovine et al. and O’Connor et al. Features encircled with larger white circles are discussed in the text and Fig. 2. Marine gravity anomaly map is from Sandwell and Smith.

Return to the Earthquake Reports page.

Earthquake Report: Phillipines

I put these together earlier this week for me classes and finally have a moment to write about these earthquakes. The Philippines region has been quite active lately, as it frequently is. I show below a series of earthquakes from the past ~30 days. These earthquakes occurred in 4 different regions and 3 different tectonic settings. These are probably unrelated to each other, but it is difficult to really know without further analyses. After I made these posters, there was an earthquake with a magnitude of M 5.8 on the island of Mindanao (I include the USGS link below), possibly associated with the Davao River fault (the closest fault mapped in this region).

Here are the USGS websites for these earthquakes.

I took a look at the seismicity from the past century. Here are Google Earth kml files from the USGS website for earthquakes from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M ≥ 7.0 and M ≥ 7.5.

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 the USGS epicenters for earthquakes from 1917-2017 with 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. The
  • 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 is a figure from Hall, 2011. This shows the plate tectonic configuration in the equatorial Pacific. Note how the upper panel shows a west dipping slab on the east side of the Philippines. Note the contrast in the center panel (Halmahera), where the eastern fault is dipping to the east (westward vergent) and the western fault is dipping to the west (eastward vergent). This region near Halmahera forms the Molucca Strait, one of the most tectonically active areas in this region.
  • In the upper right corner is a map showing the regional faults from Noda (2013). The Philippine and
  • In the lower left corner I include a map showing the seismicity and tectonic plate boundary faults for this region (Smoczyk et al., 2013). Earthquakes are plotted with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend).


  • I choose 4 earthquakes for which I plot the MMI intensity.
  • The easternmost two are earthquakes related to the subduction of the Philippine Sea plate.
  • The northwesternmost earthquake series (largest M = 5.9) is interesting and mysterious. There is a left-lateral forearc sliver fault (Philippine fault) that parallels the Philippine trench. Internal deformation in the upper plate is accommodated by a complicated series of other strike-slip faults. In the region near Manila, there is a north-south striking right-lateral Mirikina Valley fault system. The MV fault trends south from Manila into the region of the M 5.9 earthquake. This fault seems to terminate in a northeast-southwest trending zone of “extension and young volcanism” (Nelson et al., 2000). Further to the south is an east-west striking left-lateral Lubang fault. This may be an extension of the Sibuyan Sea fault (Noda, 2013), a splay of the Philippine fault. If we look at the moment tensor for the M 5.5 and 5.9 earthquakes, the nodal planes suggest either NE striking left-lateral or NW striking right-lateral motion. This does not fit the orientation nor sense of motion for any of the mapped faults in the region. It is possible that these earthquakes are related to the extensional rifting instead. The moment tensor for the M 5.1 earthquake here shows an extensional beach ball. The orientation is not completely correct based upon the Nelson et al. (2000) figure, but there are no faults shown on their map.
  • The southwestern earthquakes from March (both M 5.6) are also interesting. The epicenters show locations on north Sulawesi, part of Indonesia. There is a NW striking left-lateral strike-slip faults mapped to the west and east of these earthquakes. However, the moment tensor shows that this would be a right-lateral fault in that orientation. The NW striking reverse fault is also equally challenging to interpret. Needless to say, this is a tectonically complicated region.

Below is my interpretive poster for the M 5.9 earthquake.


  • This is the low-angle oblique view of the region (Hall, 2011).

  • 3D cartoon of plate boundaries in the Molucca Sea region modified from Hall et al. (1995). Although seismicity identifies a number of plates there are no continuous boundaries, and the Cotobato, North Sulawesi and Philippine Trenches are all intraplate features. The apparent distinction between different crust types, such as Australian continental crust and oceanic crust of the Philippine and Molucca Sea, is partly a boundary inactive since the Early Miocene (east Sulawesi) and partly a younger but now probably inactive boundary of the Sorong Fault. The upper crust of this entire region is deforming in a much more continuous way than suggested by this cartoon.

  • Here is the fault map for the region on the Island of Luzon (where Manila is located) from Nelson et al. (2000). The panel on the right (B) shows the Marikina Valley fault system (MV) and the Lubang fault. The MV is a right-lateral strike slip fault and the Lubang fault is a left-lateral strike-slip fault.

  • Tectonic setting of the Marikina Valley fault system (MV) in central Luzon, the Philippines. Diagram A shows subduction zone trenches by barbed lines, other faults with high rates of Quaternary activity by heavy black lines. White dots show locations of recent earthquakes on the Philippine fault in Luzon (M 7.8; 1990) and the Aglubang River fault in Mindoro (M 7.1; 1994). Diagram B shows how the Marikina Valley pull-apart basin (MV) may have been formed through extension caused by clockwise rotation (dashed circle) and shearing of central Luzon, which is caught between two active left-lateral strike-slip faults—the Philippine fault (Nakata et al., 1977; Barrier et al., 1991; Ringenbach et al., 1993; Aurelio et al., 1993) and the Lubang fault. A zone of extension and young volcanism south of the fault system has also influenced the structural development of the valley (Fo¨rster et al., 1990; Defant et al., 1988).

  • Here is the map from Noda (2013) that shows various strike slip faults associated with subduction zones.

  • Modern examples of trench-linked strike-slip faults. (A) The Median Tectonic Line (MTL) active fault system in southwestern Japan, related to oblique subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate (PS) along the Nankai Trough (NT). (B) The Great Sumatra Fault system (GSF) along the Java–Sumatra Trench (JST). (C) Strike-slip faults in Alaska. Fault names: DF, Denali; BRF, Boarder Ranges; CSEF, Chugach St. Elias; FF, Fairweather; TF, Transition. (D) The Philippine Fault system (PF). Abbreviations: SSF, Sibuyan Sea Fault; MT, Manila Trench; PT, Philippine Trench; ELT, East Luzon Trough. Plate names: AM, Amur; OK, Okhotsk; PS, Philippine Sea; AU, Australian; SU, Sundaland; NA, North American; PA, Pacific; YMC, Yukutat microcontinent. Black and purple lines are subduction zones and trench-linked strike-slip faults, respectively. All maps were drawn using SRTM and GEBCO with plate boundary data [30]. Blue arrows indicate the direction and velocity of relative plate motion (mm yr-1) based on [31].

The USGS Maps and Cross-Sections

  • Here is the map from Smocyk et al., 2013, followed by the legend. The entire poster is here (92 MB pdf).


  • Below are two cross sections that show the subduction zone seismicity, followed by the legend. The location of these cross sections are labeled on the map above.



  • This map shows the seismic hazard for this region. The color represents the likelihood of any region experiencing ground shaking of a particular magnitude. The scale is “Peak Ground Acceleration.” Units are m/s^2. Purple represents gravitational acceleration of 1 g, gravity at Earth’s surface. Note how most of the earthquakes were in the region of higher likely ground shaking, except for the Sulawesi earthquakes.

  • In January of this year, there was an M 7.3 earthquake in the Celebes Sea south of the Philippines. Below is my interpretive map for that earthquake. I also present the same poster with 1917-2017 seismicity for earthquakes M ≥ 6.5. Here is my earthquake report for this M 7.3 earthquake. I include more background information for the Molucca Strait region on this page.


References:

  • Bock et al., 2003. Crustal motion in Indonesia from Global Positioning System measurements in JGR, v./ 108, no. B8, 2367, doi:10.1029/2001JB000324
  • Hall, R., 2011. Australia–SE Asia collision: plate tectonics and crustal flow in Hall, R., Cottam, M. A. &Wilson, M. E. J. (eds) The SE Asian Gateway: History and Tectonics of the Australia–Asia Collision. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 355, 75–109.
  • Hayes, G.P., Wald, D.J., and Johnson, R.L., 2012. Slab1.0: A three-dimensional model of global subduction zone geometries in, J. Geophys. Res., 117, B01302, doi:10.1029/2011JB008524
  • McCaffrey, R., Silver, E.A., and Raitt, R.W., 1980. Crustal Structure of the Molucca Sea Collision Zone, Indonesia in The Tectonic and Geologic Evolution of Southeast Asian Seas and Islands-Geophysical Monograph 23, p. 161-177.
  • Nelson, A.R., Personius, S.F., Rimando, R.E>, Punongbayan, R.S., Tungol, N, Mirabueno, H., and Rasdas, A., 2000. Multiple Large Earthquakes in the Past 1500 Years on a Fault in Metropolitan Manila, the Philippines in BSSA vol. 90, p. 73-85.
  • Noda, A., 2013. Strike-Slip Basin – Its Configuration and Sedimentary Facies in Mechanism of Sedimentary Basin Formation – Multidisciplinary Approach on Active Plate Margins http://www.intechopen.com/books/mechanism-of-sedimentarybasin-formation-multidisciplinary-approach-on-active-plate-margins http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/56593
  • Smoczyk, G.M., Hayes, G.P., Hamburger, M.W., Benz, H.M., Villaseñor, Antonio, and Furlong, K.P., 2013. Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2012 Philippine Sea plate and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-M, 1 sheet, scale 1:10,000,000.
  • Waltham et al., 2008. Basin formation by volcanic arc loading in GSA Special Papers 2008, v. 436, p. 11-26.
  • Zahirovic et al., 2014. The Cretaceous and Cenozoic tectonic evolution of Southeast Asia in Solid Earth, v. 5, p. 227-273, doi:10.5194/se-5-227-2014.

Earthquake Report: Botswana!

This is a very interesting M 6.5 earthquake, which was preceded by a probably unrelated M 5.2 earthquake.

    Here are the USGS web pages for these earthquakes


  • 2017.04.03 M 5.2
  • 2017.04.03 M 6.5

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.

I plot the seismicity from the past century, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include the USGS epicenters for earthquakes from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M ≥ 2.5. The M 5.2 earthquake happened in a region that is seismically active and this preceded the M 6.5 earthquake. They are at a large distance and are unlikely related to each other.

I also include the generalized location of the East Africa Rift (EAR) in this region as yellow bands with white dashed lines. These are the Eastern Branch and Southwestern Branch of the EAR.

  • 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. This earthquake is a normal fault event that strikes to the northwest and dips to the northeast or southwest. Due to the paucity of seismic data and mapped faults here, it is difficult to tell which is the principal fault plane. Someone online suggested that this may not be an earthquake, but an alien invasion force. Just joking. However, it is possible that this might have been an underground explosion. But, at 25 km, this seems highly unlikely.
  • 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 some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the lower right corner I include a geologic map for southern Africa and Botswana (Leseane et al., 2015). Note that the Southwestern Branch of the EAR extends into northwestern Botswana (the white fault lines in the red colored geologic unit). I place a red star in the general location of the M 6.5 earthquake. This earthquake happened in the Kaapvaal Craton, a region of low historical seismicity.
  • In the upper right corner I include a map that shows the seismic hazard for the EAR region of Africa (Hayes et al., 2014). Today’s M 6.5 earthquake happened in the lower left corner of the map. I place a red star in the general location of the M 6.5 earthquake. Note that this earthquake happened in a region of low seismic hazard.
  • In the upper left corner I include two maps and their associated plots. The map on the left is the shaking intensity map as modeled by the USGS, which uses the MMI scale. The plot below shows the results from the Ground Motion Prediction Equation (GMPE) used to generate the map. This plot shows how ground shaking (MMI) attenuates (diminishes as the seismic waves are absorbed by the earth) with distance from the earthquake. The map on the right is the “Did You Feel It?” map generated by the online responses from people who observed the ground shaking. This also uses the MMI scale. The plot below that shows how the reported observations match the GMPE relations for this earthquake. The GMPE relations are plotted as orange and green lines, which represent GMPE models developed for different geologic settings (e.g. hard rock like granite vs. soft rock like accreted terrane).
  • In the lower left corner I include 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 left is a histogram showing estimated casualties and on the top right is an estimate of possible economic losses. There is a list of cities in the lower right corner which shows their populations and the MMI that they were likely exposed to.


  • This is the geologic map from the poster (Leseane et al., 2015). I include their caption below in blockquote.

  • Precambrian tectonic map of (a) southern Africa and (b) Botswana outlining the spatial extent of Archean cratons and Proterozoic orogenic belts. White lines represent the fault system of the Okavango Rift Zone. Modified after Singletary et al. [2003] and Begg et al. [2009].

  • Here is the USGS “Seismicity of the Earth” poster for this region (Hayes et al., 2014).

  • This is the latest geologic maps of Africa (Thieblemont, D., 2016). Click on the map for a 67 MB pdf version.

References:

  • Hayes, G.P., Jones, E.S., Stadler, T.J., Barnhart, W.D., McNamara, D.E., Benz, H.M., Furlong, K.P., and Villaseñor, Antonio, 2014, Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2013 East African Rift: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-P, 1 sheet, scale 1:8,500,000 http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/of20101083P
  • Leseane, K., Atekwana, E.A., Mickus, K.L., Abdelsalam, M.G., Shemanq, E.M., and Atekwana, E.A., 2015. Thermal perturbations beneath the incipient Okavango Rift Zone, northwest Botswana in JGR: Solid Earth, v. 120, doi:10.1002/2014JB011029.
  • Thieblemont, D. (ed.), 2016. Geological Map of Africa et 1:10M scale, CGMW-BRGM 2016

Earthquake Report: Gulf California!

There was an earthquake yesterday in the Gulf of California nearby a series of earthquakes that happened in 2015 and earlier in 2013. The 2017 and 2013 earthquakes are happening along a fault that forms the Carmen Basin and the 2015 earthquakes are rupturing a fault that appears to be in the middle of the Farallon Basin. Here is my Earthquake Report for the 2013 earthquake (an early report, so it is rather basic). Here is my Earthquake Report for the 2015 earthquake sequence. This is an update to the initial 2015 report.

    Here are the USGS web pages for these earthquakes


    2013

  • 2013.10.19 M 6.4

  • 2015

  • 2015.09.13 M 6.6
  • 2015.09.13 M 5.3
  • 2015.09.13 M 4.9
  • 2015.09.13 M 5.2

  • 2017

  • 2017.03.29 M 5.7

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 the USGS epicenters for earthquakes 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 suspect that the fault that ruptured is eastward vergent (dipping to the west), so the west dipping nodal plane is probably the primary fault plane. However, this region of Kamchatka has numerous upper plate thrust and reverse faults (so the primary fault plane could be the other one, dipping to the east).
  • 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 some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner I include a map that shows the tectonic setting of this region, with the geological units colored relative to their age and type (marine or continental).This is from a paper that discusses the interaction between spreading ridges and subduction trenches (Fletcher et al., 2007).
  • In the upper right corner I include a larger saled version of this map with the same seismicity plotted, but without the MMI contours. One can see the shape of the seafloor and how this is formed due to plate tectonics. Note the spreading ridge in the lower right corner and the parallel ridges formed as the plates extend from the ridge. The magnitude scale is slightly different than the main map.
  • In the lower left corner I include a map from the 2015 earthquake series. I include this because I labeled the Basins formed by the enechelon steps in this plate boundary. In my 2015 report, I provide more maps that include the names of some of these fracture zones (the transform plate boundary strike-slip faults).


  • Here is a great diagram showing the major faults in the region. I include their figure caption below.

  • (A) Simplified map of the Gulf of California region and Baja California peninsula showing the present plate boundary and some major tectonic features related to the plate-tectonic history since 12 Ma. The Gulf extensional province in gray is bounded by the Main Gulf Escarpment (bold dashed lines), which runs through the Loreto area and is shown in Figure 3. The Salton trough in southern California is merely the northern part of the Gulf extensional province. (B) Map of part of the southern Gulf of California and Baja California peninsula showing bathymetry (in meters), the transform–spreading-ridge plate boundary, and the location of subsequent figures with maps. The bathymetry is after a map in Ness and Lyle (1991) and the transform–spreading-ridge plate boundary is from Lonsdale (1989). The lines with double arrows are the three proposed rift segments modified here after Axen (1995); MS—Mulege´ segment, LS—Loreto segment, TS—Timbabichi
    segment.

  • This map shows the magnetic anomalies and the geologic map for the land and the youngest oceanic crust.

  • (A) Tectonic map of the southern Baja California microplate (BCM) and Gulf of California extensional province (GEP). The Magdalena fan is deposited on oceanic crust of the Farallon-derived Magdalena microplate located west of Baja California. Deep Sea Drilling Project Site 471 is shown as black dot on the Magdalena fan. Abbreviations: BCT—Baja California trench, BM—Bahia Magdalena, LC—Los Cabos block, T—Trinidad block, LP—La Paz, PV—Puerto Vallarta, SMSLF—Santa Margarita–San Lazaro fault, TAF—Tosco-Abreojos fault, TS—Todos Santos, V—Vizcaino peninsula. Geology is simplifi ed from Muehlberger (1996). Interpretation of marine magnetic anomalies, with numbers denoting the chron of positively magnetized stripes, is from Severinghaus and Atwater (1989) and Lonsdale (1991).

  • This map shows a more broad view of the magnetic anomalies through time.

  • Map-view time slices showing the widely accepted model for the two-phase kinematic evolution of plate margin shearing around the Baja California microplate. (A) Configuration of active ridge segments (pink) west of Baja California just before they became largely abandoned ca. 12.3 Ma. (B) It is thought that plate motion from 12.3 to 6 Ma was kinematically partitioned into dextral strike slip (325 km) on faults west of Baja California and orthogonal rifting in the Gulf of California (90 km). This is known as the protogulf phase of rifting. (C) From 6 to 0 Ma faults west of Baja California are thought to have died and all plate motion was localized in the Gulf of California, which accommodated ~345 km of integrated transtensional shearing. Despite its wide acceptance, our data preclude this kinematic model. In all frames, the modern coastline is blue. Continental crust that accommodated post–12.3 Ma shearing is dark brown. Unfaulted microplates of continental crust are light tan. Farallon-derived microplates are light green. Middle Miocene trench-filling deposits like the Magdalena fan are colored dark green. Deep Sea Drilling Project Site 471 is the black dot on the southern Magdalena microplate. Yellow line (296 km) in the northern Gulf of California connects correlated terranes of Oskin and Stock (2003). Maps have Universal Transverse Mercator zone 12 projection with mainland Mexico fixed in present position.

  • Here is the Earthquake Report Poster from the 2015 sequence.

This is a nice simple figure, from the University of Sydney here, showing the terminology of strike slip faulting. It may help with the following figures.

Here is a fault block diagram showing how strike-slip step overs can create localized compression (positive flower) or extension (negative flower). More on strike-slip tectonics (and the source of this image) here.


Here is another great figure showing how sedimentary basins can be developed as a result of step overs in strike slip fault systems (source: Becky Dorsey, University of Oregon, Dept. of Geological Sciences).


I also put together an animation of seismicity from 1065 – 2015. First, here is a map that shows the spatial extent of this animation.


Here is the animation link (2 MB mp4 file) if you cannot view the embedded video below. Note how the animation begins in 1965, but has the recent seismicity plotted for reference.

    There have been two large magnitude earthquakes in this region over the past 50 years.

  • 2007.09.01 M 6.1
  • 2010.10.21 M 6.7

This is an animation from Tanya Atwater. Click on this link to take you to yt (if the embedded video below does not work).

Here is an animation from IRIS. This link takes you to yt (if you cannot view the embedded version below). Here is a link to download the 21 MB mp4 vile file.

This is a link to a tectonic summary map from the USGS. Click on the map below to download the 20 MB pdf file.


References:

  • Fletcher, J.M., Grove, M., Kimbrough, D., Lovera, O., and Gehrels, G.E., 2007. Ridge-trench interactions and the Neogene tectonic evolution of the Magdalena shelf and southern Gulf of California: Insights from detrital zircon U-Pb ages from the Magdalena fan and adjacent areas in GSA Bulletin, v. 119, no. 11/12, p. 1313-1336.
  • Umhoefer, P.J., Mayer, L., and Dorse, R.J., 2002. Evolution of the margin of the Gulf of California near Loreto, Baja California Peninsula, Mexico in GSA Bulletin, v. 114, no. 7, p. 849-868.

Earthquake Report: Kamchatka!

This earthquake happened last night as I was preparing course materials for this morning. Initially it was a magnitude 6.9, but later modified to be M 6.9.

This earthquake happened in an interesting region of the world where there is a junction between two plate boundaries, the Kamchatka subduction zone with the Aleutian subduction zone / Bering-Kresla Shear Zone. The Kamchatka Trench (KT) is formed by the subduction (a convergent plate boundary) beneath the Okhtosk plate (part of North America). The Aleutian Trench (AT) and Bering-Kresla Shear Zone (BKSZ) are formed by the oblique subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the Pacific plate. There is a deflection in the Kamchatka subduction zone north of the BKSZ, where the subduction trench is offset to the west. Some papers suggest the subduction zone to the north is a fossil (inactive) plate boundary fault system. There are also several strike-slip faults subparallel to the BKSZ to the north of the BKSZ. These are shown in two of the inset maps below.

    Here is the USGS website for this earthquake.

  • 2017.03.29 M 6.6

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 the USGS epicenters for earthquakes from 1917-2017 with magnitudes M ≥ 7.0 (the search window is limited to the region west of the Amlia fracture zone).

  • I also include moment tensors for earthquakes associated with the Kamchatka-Kuril subduction zone. There are some interesting earthquakes plotted here:
    • The pair of earthquakes 2008.07.05 M 7.7 and 2013.05.24 M 8.3 are very deep earthquakes (the M 8.3 is one of the largest and deepest earthquake ever recorded by modern seismometers) and may be due to bending of the downgoing slab. Here is my report for the M 8.3 (it was an early report of mine).
    • The pair of earthquakes 2006.11.15 M 833 and 2007.01.13 M 8.1 are directly related to each other. Lay et al. (2009) discussed this earthquake sequence and how the 2006 subduction zone earthquake led to the 2007 outer-rise earthquake in the Pacific plate. Dr. Erica Emry studied this earthquake pair for her Ph.D. research. I also wrote a little about these earthquakes in my earthquake report here.
    • The largest earthquake plotted for this region is the 1952 M 9.0 earthquake (the large epicenter between teh 1993 and 1997 earthquakes. This earthquake is the 5th largest earthquake recorded by modern seismometers. However, there is no USGS moment tensor (I couldn’t find a focal mechanism either). This earthquake generated a tsunami that traveled across the Pacific.
  • 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 suspect that the fault that ruptured is eastward vergent (dipping to the west), so the west dipping nodal plane is probably the primary fault plane. However, this region of Kamchatka has numerous upper plate thrust and reverse faults (so the primary fault plane could be the other one, dipping to the east).
  • 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 of the M 5.5 plots this close to the location of the fault as mapped by Hayes et al. (2012).

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner I include a map that shows the tectonic setting of this region, with the major plate boundary faults and volcanic arc designated by triangles (Bindeman et al., 2002). I placed an orange circle in the general location of the M 6.6 earthquake (sized relative to the magnitude range in the main map). Note the reverse fault mapped to the northeast of the epicenter. This fault dips to the southeast, supporting the east dipping solution for the M 6.6 moment tensor. I post this figure and their figure caption below.
  • To the right of this figure, I include a figure from Portnyagin and Manea (2008 ) that shows a low angle oblique view of the downgoing Pacific plate slab. I post this figure and their figure caption below.
  • In the lower left corner I include a map from the USGS Open File report (Rhea et al., 2010) that explains the historic seismicity for this region. I also plot the epicenter (orange dot).
  • In the upper right corner I include a map that shows more details about the faulting in the region. I place the epicenter for the M 6.6 as an orange circle. The location of the cross section I-I’ (plotted in the lower right corner) is designated by a dashed purple line.


  • Here is the tectonic map from Bindeman et al., 2002. The original figure caption is below in blockquote.

  • Tectonic setting of the Sredinny and Ganal Massifs in Kamchatka. Kamchatka/Aleutian junction is modified after Gaedicke et al. (2000). Onland geology is after Bogdanov and Khain (2000). 1, Active volcanoes (a) and Holocene monogenic vents (b). 2, Trench (a) and pull-apart basin in the Aleutian transform zone (b). 3, Thrust (a) and normal (b) faults. 4, Strike-slip faults. 5–6, Sredinny Massif. 5, Amphibolite-grade felsic paragneisses of the Kolpakovskaya series. 6, Allochthonous metasedimentary and metavolcanic rocks of the Malkinskaya series. 7, The Kvakhona arc. 8, Amphibolites and gabbro (solid circle) of the Ganal Massif. Lower inset shows the global position of Kamchatka. Upper inset shows main Cretaceous-Eocene tectonic units (Bogdanov and Khain 2000): Western Kamchatka (WK) composite unit including the Sredinny Massif, the Kvakhona arc, and the thick pile of Upper Cretaceous marine clastic rocks; Eastern Kamchatka (EK) arc, and Eastern Peninsulas terranes (EPT). Eastern Kamchatka is also known as the Olyutorka-Kamchatka arc (Nokleberg et al. 1998) or the Achaivayam-Valaginskaya arc (Konstantinovskaya 2000), while Eastern Peninsulas terranes are also called Kronotskaya arc (Levashova et al. 2000).

  • This map shows the configuration of the subducting slab. The original figure caption is below in blockquote.

  • Kamchatka subduction zone. A: Major geologic structures at the Kamchatka–Aleutian Arc junction. Thin dashed lines show isodepths to subducting Pacific plate (Gorbatov et al., 1997). Inset illustrates major volcanic zones in Kamchatka: EVB—Eastern Volcanic Belt; CKD—Central
    Kamchatka Depression (rift-like tectonic structure, which accommodates the northern end of EVB); SR—Sredinny Range. Distribution of Quaternary volcanic rocks in EVB and SR is shown in orange and green, respectively. Small dots are active vol canoes. Large circles denote CKD volcanoes: T—Tolbachik; K l — K l y u c h e v s k o y ; Z—Zarechny; Kh—Kharchinsky; Sh—Shiveluch; Shs—Shisheisky Complex; N—Nachikinsky. Location of profiles shown in Figures 2 and 3 is indicated. B: Three dimensional visualization of the Kamchatka subduction zone from the north. Surface relief is shown as semi-transparent layer. Labeled dashed lines and color (blue to red) gradation of subducting plate denote depths to the plate from the earth surface (in km). Bold arrow shows direction of Pacific Plate movement.

  • Here is the more detailed tectonic map from Konstantinovskaia et al. (2001).


  • This is the cross section associated with the above map.


  • Here is the Rhea et al. (2010) poster.

References:

  • Bindeman, I.N., Vinogradov, V.I., Valley, J.W., Wooden, J.L., and Natal’in, B.A., 2002. Archean Protolith and Accretion of Crust in Kamchatka: SHRIMP Dating of Zircons from Sredinny and Ganal Massifs in The Journal of Geology, v. 110, p. 271-289.
  • 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.
  • Konstantinovskaia, E.A., 2001. Arc-continent collision and subduction reversal in the Cenozoic evolution of the Northwest Pacific: and example from Kamchatka (NE Russia) in Tectonophysics, v. 333, p. 75-94.
  • Koulakov, I.Y., Dobretsov, N.L., Bushenkova, N.A., and Yakovlev, A.V., 2011. Slab shape in subduction zones beneath the Kurile–Kamchatka and Aleutian arcs based on regional tomography results in Russian Geology and Geophysics, v. 52, p. 650-667.
  • Krutikov, L., et al., 2008. Active Tectonics and Seismic Potential of Alaska, Geophysical Monograph Series 179, doi:10.1029/179GM07
  • Lay, T., H. Kanamori, C. J. Ammon, A. R. Hutko, K. Furlong, and L. Rivera, 2009. The 2006 – 2007 Kuril Islands great earthquake sequence in J. Geophys. Res., 114, B11308, doi:10.1029/2008JB006280.
  • Portnyagin, M. and Manea, V.C., 2008. Mantle temperature control on composition of arc magmas along the Central Kamchatka Depression in Geology, v. 36, no. 7, p. 519-522.
  • Rhea, Susan, Tarr, A.C., Hayes, Gavin, Villaseñor, Antonio, Furlong, K.P., and Benz, H.M., 2010, Seismicity of the earth 1900–2007, Kuril-Kamchatka arc and vicinity: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-C, scale 1:5,000,000.

Good Friday Earthquake 27 March 1964

In March of 1964, plate tectonics was still a hotly debated topic at scientific meetings worldwide. Some people still do not accept this theory (some Russian geologists favor alternative hypotheses; Shevchenko et al., 2006). At the time, there was some debate about whether the M 9.2 earthquake (the 2nd largest earthquake recorded with modern seismometers) was from a strike-slip or from a revers/thrust earthquake. Plafker and his colleagues found the evidence to put that debate to rest (see USGS video below).

I have prepared a new map showing the 1964 earthquake in context to the plate boundary using the same methods I have been using for my other earthquake reports. I also found a focal mechanism for this M 9.2 earthquake and included this on the map (Stauder and Bollinger, 1966).

    Here is the USGS website for this earthquake.

  • 1964.03.27 M 9.2

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 a focal mechanism for the M 9.2 earthquake determined by Stauder and Bollinger (1966). I include the USGS epicenters for earthquakes with magnitudes M ≥ 7.0.

  • 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. The hypocentral depth of the M 5.5 plots this close to the location of the fault as mapped by Hayes et al. (2012).

    I include some inset figures in the poster.

  • In the upper left corner I include two maps from the USGS, both using the MMI scale of shaking intensity mentioned above. The map on the left is the USGS Shakemap. This is a map that shows an estimate of how strongly the ground would shake during this earthquake. This is based upon a numerical model using Ground Motion Prediction Equations (GMPE), which are empirical relations between fault types, earthquake magnitude, distance from the fault, and shaking intensity. The map on the right is based upon peoples’ direct observations. Below each map are plots that show how these models demonstrate that the MMI attenuates (diminishes) with distance. The lines are the empirical relations. The dots are the data points.
  • To the right of those maps and figures is a map produced by Dr. Peter Haeussler from the USGS Alaska Science Center (pheuslr at usgs.gov) that shows the historic earthquakes along the Aleutian-Alaska subduction zone.
  • In the lower right corner I include an inset map from the USGS Seismicity History poster for this region (Benz et al., 2011). There is one seismicity cross section with its locations plotted on the map. The USGS plot these hypocenters along this cross section E-E’ (in green).
  • In the upper right corner, I include a figure that shows the measurements of uplift and subsidence observed by Plafker and his colleagues following the earthquake (Plafker, 1969). This is shown in map view and as a cross section.


Below is an educational video from the USGS that presents material about subduction zones and the 1964 earthquake and tsunami in particular.
Youtube Source IRIS

mp4 file for downloading.

    Credits:

  • Animation & graphics by Jenda Johnson, geologist
  • Directed by Robert F. Butler, University of Portland
  • U.S. Geological Survey consultants: Robert C. Witter, Alaska Science Center Peter J. Haeussler, Alaska Science Center
  • Narrated by Roger Groom, Mount Tabor Middle School

This is a map from Haeussler et al. (2014). The region in red shows the area that subsided and the area in blue shows the region that uplifted during the earthquake. These regions were originally measured in the field by George Plafker and published in several documents, including this USGS Professional Paper (Plafker, 1969).


Here is a cross section showing the differences of vertical deformation between the coseismic (during the earthquake) and interseismic (between earthquakes).


This figure, from Atwater et al. (2005) shows the earthquake deformation cycle and includes the aspect that the uplift deformation of the seafloor can cause a tsunami.


Here is a figure recently published in the 5th International Conference of IGCP 588 by the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Dept. of Natural Resources, State of Alaska (State of Alaska, 2015). This is derived from a figure published originally by Plafker (1969). There is a cross section included that shows how the slip was distributed along upper plate faults (e.g. the Patton Bay and Middleton Island faults).


Here is a graphic showing the sediment-stratigraphic evidence of earthquakes in Cascadia, but the analogy works for Alaska also. Atwater et al., 2005. There are 3 panels on the left, showing times of (1) prior to earthquake, (2) several years following the earthquake, and (3) centuries after the earthquake. Before the earthquake, the ground is sufficiently above sea level that trees can grow without fear of being inundated with salt water. During the earthquake, the ground subsides (lowers) so that the area is now inundated during high tides. The salt water kills the trees and other plants. Tidal sediment (like mud) starts to be deposited above the pre-earthquake ground surface. This sediment has organisms within it that reflect the tidal environment. Eventually, the sediment builds up and the crust deforms interseismically until the ground surface is again above sea level. Now plants that can survive in this environment start growing again. There are stumps and tree snags that were rooted in the pre-earthquake soil that can be used to estimate the age of the earthquake using radiocarbon age determinations. The tree snags form “ghost forests.


This is a photo that I took along the Seward HWY 1, that runs east of Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm. I attended the 2014 Seismological Society of America Meeting that was located in Anchorage to commemorate the anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake. This is a ghost forest of trees that perished as a result of coseismic subsidence during the earthquake. Copyright Jason R. Patton (2014). This region subsided coseismically during the 1964 earthquake. Here are some photos from the paleoseismology field trip. (Please contact me for a higher resolution version of this image: quakejay at gmail.com)


Here is the USGS shakemap for this earthquake. The USGS used a fault model, delineated as black rectangles, to model ground shaking at the surface. The color scale refers to the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale, shown at the bottom.


http://earthjay.com/earthquakes/19640327_alaska/intensity.jpg

There is a great USGS Open File Report that summarizes the tectonics of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands (Benz et al., 2011). I include a section of their poster here. Below is the map legend.




Most recently, there was an earthquake along the Alaska Peninsula, a M 7.1 on 2016.01.24. Here is my earthquake report for this earthquake. Here is a map for the earthquakes of magnitude greater than or equal to M 7.0 between 1900 and today. This is the USGS query that I used to make this map. One may locate the USGS web pages for all the earthquakes on this map by following that link.


Here is an interesting map from Atwater et al., 2001. This figure shows how the estuarine setting in Portage, Alaska (along Turnagain Arm, southeast of Anchorage) had recovered its ground surface elevation in a short time following the earthquake. Within a decade, the region that had coseismically subsided was supporting a meadow with shrubs. By 1980, a spruce tree was growing here. This recovery was largely due to sedimentation, but an unreconciled amount of postseismic tectonic uplift contributed also. I include their figure caption as a blockquote.


(A and B) Tectonic setting of the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Subsidence from Plafker (1969). (C) Postearthquake deposits and their geologic setting in the early 1970s. (D–F) Area around Portage outlined in C, showing the landscape two years before the earthquake (D), two years after the earthquake (E), and nine years after the earthquake (F). In F, location of benchmark P 73 is from http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/ds2.prl and the Seward (D-6) SE 7.5-minute quadrangle, provisional edition of 1984.

    Here is the tsunami forecast animation from the National Tsunami Warning Center. Below the animation, I include their caption as a blockquote. This includes information about the earthquake and the formation of the warning center.

  • Here is a link to the file for the embedded video below (22 MB 720 mp4)
  • Here is a link to the higher resolution file for the embedded video below (44 MB 1080 mp4)
  • At 5:36 pm on Friday, March 27, 1964 (28 March, 03:36Z UTC) the largest earthquake ever measured in North America, and the second-largest recorded anywhere, struck 40 miles west of Valdez, Alaska in Prince William Sound with a moment magnitude we now know to be 9.2. Almost an hour and a half later the Honolulu Magnetic and Seismic Observatory (later renamed the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, or PTWC) was able to issue its first “tidal wave advisory” that noted that a tsunami was possible and that it could arrive in the Hawaiian Islands five hours later. Upon learning of a tsunami observation in Kodiak Island, Alaska, an hour and a half later the Honolulu Observatory issued a formal “tidal wave/seismic sea-wave warning” cautioning that damage was possible in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific Ocean but that it was not possible to predict the intensity of the tsunami. The earthquake did in fact generate a tsunami that killed 124 people (106 in Alaska, 13 in California, and 5 in Oregon) and caused about $2.3 billion (2016 dollars) in property loss all along the Pacific coast of North America from Alaska to southern California and in Hawaii. The greatest wave heights were in Alaska at over 67 m or 220 ft. and waves almost 10 m or 32 ft high struck British Columbia, Canada. In the “lower 48” waves as high as 4.5 m or 15 ft. struck Washington, as high as 3.7 m or 12 ft. struck Oregon, and as high as 4.8 m or over 15 ft. struck California. Waves of similar size struck Hawaii at nearly 5 m or over 16 ft. high. Waves over 1 m or 3 ft. high also struck Mexico, Chile, and even New Zealand.
  • As part of its response to this event the United States government created a second tsunami warning facility in 1967 at the Palmer Observatory, Alaska–now called the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC, http://ntwc.arh.noaa.gov/ )–to help mitigate future tsunami threats to Alaska, Canada, and the U.S. Mainland.
  • Today, more than 50 years since the Great Alaska Earthquake, PTWC and NTWC issue tsunami warnings in minutes, not hours, after a major earthquake occurs, and will also forecast how large any resulting tsunami will be as it is still crossing the ocean. PTWC can also create an animation of a historical tsunami with the same tool that it uses to determine tsunami hazards in real time for any tsunami today: the Real-Time Forecasting of Tsunamis (RIFT) forecast model. The RIFT model takes earthquake information as input and calculates how the waves move through the world’s oceans, predicting their speed, wavelength, and amplitude. This animation shows these values through the simulated motion of the waves and as they travel through the world’s oceans one can also see the distance between successive wave crests (wavelength) as well as their height (half-amplitude) indicated by their color. More importantly, the model also shows what happens when these tsunami waves strike land, the very information that PTWC needs to issue tsunami hazard guidance for impacted coastlines. From the beginning the animation shows all coastlines covered by colored points. These are initially a blue color like the undisturbed ocean to indicate normal sea level, but as the tsunami waves reach them they will change color to represent the height of the waves coming ashore, and often these values are higher than they were in the deeper waters offshore. The color scheme is based on PTWC’s warning criteria, with blue-to-green representing no hazard (less than 30 cm or ~1 ft.), yellow-to-orange indicating low hazard with a stay-off-the-beach recommendation (30 to 100 cm or ~1 to 3 ft.), light red-to-bright red indicating significant hazard requiring evacuation (1 to 3 m or ~3 to 10 ft.), and dark red indicating a severe hazard possibly requiring a second-tier evacuation (greater than 3 m or ~10 ft.).
  • Toward the end of this simulated 24 hours of activity the wave animation will transition to the “energy map” of a mathematical surface representing the maximum rise in sea-level on the open ocean caused by the tsunami, a pattern that indicates that the kinetic energy of the tsunami was not distributed evenly across the oceans but instead forms a highly directional “beam” such that the tsunami was far more severe in the middle of the “beam” of energy than on its sides. This pattern also generally correlates to the coastal impacts; note how those coastlines directly in the “beam” are hit by larger waves than those to either side of it.

References:

Earthquake Report: Bougainville and Solomons

In the past couple of weeks, there were some earthquakes in the equatorial western Pacific.

    Here are the USGS websites for the two largest earthquakes in the two regions.

  • 2017.03.04 M 6.1
  • 2017.03.19 M 6.0

The M 6.1 was a well behaved subduction zone earthquake associated with subduction of the Solomon Sea plate beneath the Solomon Islands, an island arc formed between opposing subduction zones. The M 6.0 earthquake and related earthquakes are more interesting. Baldwin et al. (2012) and Holm et al. (2016) both consider the North Solomon Trench (NST) to be inactive subduction zone, while the South Solomon Trench (SST) is an active subduction zone fault. There were 9 earthquakes larger than magnitude 2.5. The depths ranged between 4.2 and 53 km. There does not appear to be any direction that favors a deepening trend (i.e. getting deeper in the direction of the downgoing subduction zone fault). It is possible that these depths are not well constrained (the M 6.0 has a 4.2 km depth). These NNT earthquakes are either related to the NST, related to crustal faults, or reactivation of NST fault structures. Regardless, these are some interesting and mysterious earthquakes.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake.


I plot the seismicity from the past year, with color representing depth and diameter representing magnitude (see legend).

  • 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 these plate boundaries.
  • 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 Holm et al. (2016) that shows various key elements of the plate configuration in this region. Colors representing the age of the crust shows how the Woodlark Basin has an active spreading ridge system with ridges striking East-West. Large Igneous Provinces are shown here in dark gray. A relevant cross section is C-D, with the location highlighted in magenta on the map. The cross section shows how the North Solomon Trench is configured.
  • In the lower left corner is a generalized tectonic map of the region from Holm et al., 2016. This map shows the major plate boundary faults. Active subduction zones have shaded triangle fault symbols, while inactive subduction zones have un-shaded triangle fault line symbols.
  • In the upper left corner a figure from Oregon State University, which are based upon Hamilton (1979). “Tectonic microplates of the Melanesian region. Arrows show net plate motion relative to the Australian Plate.” This is from Johnson, 1976.
  • In the lower right corner is a figure from Baldwin et al. (2012). This figure shows a series of cross sections along this convergent plate boundary from the Solomon Islands in the east to Papua New Guinea in the west. Cross sections ‘A’ and ‘B’ are the most representative for the earthquakes today. I placed the general location of these cross sections on the main map as dashed orange lines. I present the map and this figure again below, with their original captions.


  • The M 6.1 is probably related to a series of earthquakes, including two M 7.9 megathrust events, further north along the San Crostobal Trench. Below are two earthquake interpretive posters for these earthquakes. This first poster is from my earthquake report on 2017.01.22.

  • In earlier earthquake reports, I 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).


Background Figures

  • This figure shows an interpretation of the regional tectonics (Holm et al., 2016). I include the figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • Tectonic setting of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. a) Regional plate boundaries and tectonic elements. Light grey shading illustrates bathymetry b 2000 m below sea level indicative of continental or arc crust, and oceanic plateaus; 1000 m depth contour is also shown. Adelbert Terrane (AT); Bismarck Sea fault (BSF); Bundi fault zone (BFZ); Feni Deep (FD); Finisterre Terrane (FT); Gazelle Peninsula (GP); Kia-Kaipito-Korigole fault zone (KKKF); Lagaip fault zone (LFZ); Mamberamo thrust belt (MTB); Manus Island (MI); New Britain (NB); New Ireland (NI); North Sepik arc (NSA); Ramu-Markham fault (RMF); Weitin Fault (WF);West Bismarck fault (WBF); Willaumez-Manus Rise (WMR).

  • This figure shows details of the regional tectonics (Holm et al., 2016). I include the figure caption below as a blockquote.

  • a) Present day tectonic features of the Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands region as shown in plate reconstructions. Sea floor magnetic anomalies are shown for the Caroline plate (Gaina and Müller, 2007), Solomon Sea plate (Gaina and Müller, 2007) and Coral Sea (Weissel and Watts, 1979). Outline of the reconstructed Solomon Sea slab (SSP) and Vanuatu slab (VS)models are as indicated. b) Cross-sections related to the present day tectonic setting. Section locations are as indicated. Bismarck Sea fault (BSF); Feni Deep (FD); Louisiade Plateau
    (LP); Manus Basin (MB); New Britain trench (NBT); North Bismarck microplate (NBP); North Solomon trench (NST); Ontong Java Plateau (OJP); Ramu-Markham fault (RMF); San Cristobal trench (SCT); Solomon Sea plate (SSP); South Bismarck microplate (SBP); Trobriand trough (TT); projected Vanuatu slab (VS); West Bismarck fault (WBF); West Torres Plateau (WTP); Woodlark Basin (WB).

  • This map shows plate velocities and euler poles for different blocks. Note the counterclockwise motion of the plate that underlies the Solomon Sea (Baldwin et al., 2012). 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). The New Britain region is in the map near the A and B 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.


Background Videos

  • I put together an animation that shows the seismicity for this region from 1900-2016 for earthquakes with magnitude of M ≥ 6.5. Here is the USGS query I used to search for these data used in this animation. I show the location of the Benz et al. (2011) cross section E-E’ as a yellow line on the main map.
  • In this animation, I include some figures from the interpretive poster above. I also include a tectonic map based upon Hamilton (1979). Music is from copyright free music online and is entitled “Sub Strut.” Above the video I present a map showing all the earthquakes presented in the video.
  • Here is a link to the embedded video below (5 MB mp4)


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