Earthquake Swarms and Slow Slip on a Sliver Fault in the Mexican Subduction Zone

Contributors:
  1. Stephen G. Holtkamp
  2. Shannon E. Graham
  3. Enrique Cabral-Cano

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Description: The Mexican Subduction Zone is an ideal location for studying subduction processes due to the short trench-to-coast distances that bring broad portions of the seismogenic and transition zones of the plate interface inland. Using a recently generated seismicity catalog from a local network in Oaxaca, we identified 20 swarms of earthquakes (M<5) from 2006-2012. Swarms outline what appears to be a steeply dipping structure in the overriding plate, indicative of an origin other than the plate interface. This steeply dipping structure corresponds to the northern boundary of the Xolapa terrane. In addition, we observed a new characteristic of slow slip events (SSEs) where they showed a shift from trenchward motion towards an along-strike direction at coastal GPS sites. A majority of the swarms were found to correspond in time to the along-strike shift. We propose that swarms and SSEs are occurring on a sliver fault that allows the oblique convergence to be partitioned into trench perpendicular motion on the subduction interface and trench parallel motion on the sliver fault . The resistivity structure surrounding the sliver fault suggests that SSEs and swarms of earthquakes occur due to high fluid content in the fault zone. We propose that the sliver fault provides a natural pathway for buoyant fluids attempting to migrate upward after being released from the downgoing plate. Thus, sliver faults could be responsible for the downdip end of the seismogenic zone by creating drier conditions on the subduction interface trenchward of the sliver fault, promoting fast-slip seismogenic rupture behavior.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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