New Britain earthquakes
mature seismic gap
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract To better understand the mechanics of subduction and the process of breaking a mature seismic gap, we study seismic activity along the western New Britain subduction segment (147°E–151°E, 4°S–8°S) through earthquakes withm b ≥5.0 in the outer-rise, the upper area of subducting slab and at intermediate depths to 250 km, from January 1964 to December 1990. The segment last broke fully in large earthquakes of December, 28, 1945 (M s =7.9) and May 6, 1947 (M s =7.7.), and its higher seismic potential has been recognized byMcCann et al., (1979). Recently the segment broke partially in two smaller events of February, 8, 1987 (M s =7.4) and October 16, 1987 (M s =7.4), leaving still unbroken areas. We observe from focal mechanisms that the outer-rise along the whole segment was under pronounced compression from the late 60's to at least October 1987 (with exception of the tensional earthquake of December 11, 1985), signifying the mature stage of the earthquake cycle. Simultaneously the slab at intermediate depths below 40 km was under tension before the earthquake of October 16, 1987. That event, with a smooth rupture lasting 32 sec, rupture velocity of 2.0 km/sec, extent of approximately 70 km and moment of 1.2×1027 dyne-cm, did not change significantly the compressive state of stress in the outer-rise of that segment. The earthquake did not fill the gap completely and this segment is still capable of rupturing either in an earthquake which would fill the gap between the 1987 and 1971 events, or in a larger magnitude event (M s =7.7–7.9), comparable to earthquakes observed in that segment in 1906, 1945 and 1947.
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