Outer Rise Seismicity at the Tonga Trench Recorded by Ocean Bottom Seismographs

R. B. White and D. A. Wiens
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, MO - USA Abstract
We are investigating the locations and fault plane solutions of outer rise earthquakes in the Tonga subduction zone to understand the distribution of strain in the bending oceanic plate. Intraplate outer rise earthquakes are due to tensional failure at shallow depths and compressional failure at deeper depths. The tension-to-compression transition depth is an important constraint for the study of downgoing plate stresses, interplate coupling along the subduction interface, and the rheology of the lithosphere in the outer rise region. In addition, the subduction of large bathymetric features may cause important perturbations on the seismic coupling and plate rheology. Using a 1994 three-month ocean bottom seismograph deployment across the Tonga subduction zone at about 19 S, more than 70 local earthquakes were relocated to less than 10 km error using a multipleevent hypocenter determination algorithm. Regional waveform inversion for the largest events using local broadband land stations yielded focal mechanisms for some earthquakes. An interesting feature in the distribution of events is a cluster of 17 earthquakes with depths of 30-50 km below the Capricorn Seamount, 13 of which span only two days. These earthquakes occur immediately beneath large normal faults seen with high-resolution sea beam sidescan sonar bathymetry. Knowledge of the focal mechanisms for some of the events in this swarm offers the opportunity to test the relation of outer rise stresses to interplate coupling.
-175˚ -17˚
-174.5˚

Study Area
-174˚
-173.5˚

Discussion
-172˚ -17˚
10/24/94

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-172.5˚


11/4/94d

176˚ 177˚ 178˚ 179˚ 180˚ -179˚ -178˚ -177˚ -176˚ -175˚ -174˚ -173˚ -172˚ -171˚ -170˚ -169˚ -13˚ -13˚
-14˚ -15˚ -16˚ -17˚ -18˚ -19˚ -20˚

-18.2˚

-172.6˚

-172.4˚

-172.2˚

-172˚ -18.2˚

9/20/94e 9/19/94e 9/19/94d

-17.5˚
10/31/94

-17.5˚
11/4/94a

Having a nearby OBS array allows for well-constrained relative locations of nearby events. Using a multiple-event hypocenter relocation technique [6], we can constrain the relative locations and depths very well. We used reflectivity synthetic seismograms and regional waveform inversion to obtain focal mechanisms for some of the outer rise events. Three events had CMT solutions that allowed for verification and calibration of a focal mechanism determination technique. Due to the varying crustal structure of the region [4, 12], four different velocity models were used to compute synthetic seismograms of the waveforms. These were used to invert for the best-fitting fault plane solution. Perhaps the most interesting feature of this data set is a major cluster of earthquakes on the Capricorn Seamount. It is a sequence of 17 events occurring mostly over two days (September 1921, 1994). The close proximity of these events to each other suggests the possibility that they could be an aftershock sequence. The focal mechanisms found for these earthquakes support this claim. All have thrust fault plane solutions oriented approximately perpendicular to the trench axis. This could be a rare opportunity to study the compressional stress regime of the lower part of the bending plate. As more focal mechanisms are obtained for this region, we hope to constrain the nodal surface depth, where the shallow extensional stresses change to compressional. The focal mechanism for the 11/4/94b CMT event is tensional, so we can propose the nodal surface to be between 30 and 40 km in depth. The other cluster of 7 events to the north of the Capricorn seamount contained two of the three CMT events in this region during this time period. These events are stronger, on average, than the ones in the Capricorn cluster, and finding focal mechanisms for them was easier than for the Capricorn events. We currently use IASP91 for the multiple-event relocation. The strong lateral heterogeneity in the region severely limits, the depth resolution. We are currently in the process of modifying the code to use multiple structure models based on the station location. This should allow for even better constraints on depth and focal mechanism solutions. With enough well-constrained event locations and focal mechanisms, a more definite estimate of the nodal surface depth within the outer rise can be found. Taking into account the stress regime suggested by the seismicity and correlating the hypocenters of the events to bathymetry in the region [11], lithospheric models can be tested to study the nature of the downgoing plate. Simple elastic flexure and elastic-plastic deformation are two possible types to test [8]. Finally, it will be interesting to see what effect the subduction of the Capricorn Seamount has on the system, since it should increase the local interplate coupling and hinder seismogenesis [9].

Samoa

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9/20/94d 11/4/94b

Fiji Islands

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-18.4˚
9/19/94a

Lau Basin

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11/4/94c

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9/21/94 11/22/94

-19˚
11/28/94

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-18.6˚

Tre nch

Background
∑ Shallow earthquakes at subduction zones occur primarily in two regions: the seismogenic zone and the outer rise. Studying the spatial and temporal distribution of these earthquakes with their fault plane solutions can provide information on the nature of interplate coupling and the stresses affecting the plates. Intraplate earthquakes at subduction zones occur within both plates. Events in the overriding plate are very shallow (< 15 km) and reflect local stresses in the accreted forearc sediments [10]. Intraplate bending earthquakes in the outer rise region of the seaward plate occur near the trench and can often be easily distinguished from the interplate activity. Focal mechanisms of these earthquakes can provide constraints on the regional stress state of the downgoing plate and how it relates to interplate coupling and the subduction process in general. Hypocenter locations obtained from teleseismic arrivals are not reliable due to the tradeoff between depth and origin time [2, 5], misidentifying the phases pP and pwP [5], and systematic bias if all nearby stations are landward of the event, such as at oceanic-continental subduction zones. Jointhypocentral relocation techniques [6, 10] can increase relative depth precision, but they are limited by the amount and quality of the teleseismic data. To better constrain oceanic earthquake locations, an ocean bottom seismograph (OBS) array can be used, since the OBSís can be placed at a variety of distances and azimuths near the source. The bending of the plate is associated with tension in the upper 20 km [3], and this is evident with seismic reflection and bathymetric observations of abundant normal faults on the seaward side of the trench axis [11]. Most tension axes are perpendicular to the strike of the trench, independent of the direction of relation motion between the two plates, indicating the failure is controlled by bending stresses in the plate [1]. Approximately one compressional outer rise earthquake is confirmed per year teleseismically [3]. These seem to occur systematically deeper than normal faulting outer rise earthquakes and have depths up to 50 km [2, 3]. The Tonga-Kermadec region is unusual because of the large number of outer rise events. Half of these are near the northern Tonga trench, and both tensional and compressional events have been found [3].
arc outer rise
0

Ton

-22˚

ga

km
0 100 200

Lau Ridge

-21˚

-21˚ -22˚

-19.5˚

-19.5˚
-18.8˚

Capricorn Seamount
-18.8˚
10

-23˚ -23˚ 176˚ 177˚ 178˚ 179˚ 180˚ -179˚ -178˚ -177˚ -176˚ -175˚ -174˚ -173˚ -172˚ -171˚ -170˚ -169˚

-20˚

-20˚

km
0 5

km
0 50

The SPaSE and LABATTS deployments consisted of 12 broadband seismographs from November 1993 to December 1995 and 25 OBS's from September to December 1994 [12]. Depth (m)
500 1500 2500 3500 4500 5500 6500 7500 8500 9500

-172.6˚

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Earthquakes

OBS Stations

Land Stations

Earthquakes detected during the OBS deployment, with relative locations determined with multiple-event hypocenter inversion algorithm [6]. A cluster of earthquakes north of the Capricorn Seamount were mostly shallow thrust-faulting events.

High-resolution multibeam bathmetry of the Capricorn Seamount reveals numerous normal faults on the object as it enters the Tonga Trench [11]. Focal mechanisms for a swarm of events on the Capricorn Seamount also correspond to a compressional stress regime.

Focal Mechanisms
Model Velocity (km/s)
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Outer Rise and Large Events in the Study Area
Date Time Latitude Longitude Depth Notes Plane 1 September 19, 1994 September 19, 1994 September 19, 1994 September 19, 1994 September 19, 1994 September 20, 1994 September 20, 1994 September 20, 1994 September 20, 1994 September 20, 1994 September 20, 1994 September 20, 1994 September 21, 1994 October 11, 1994 October 13, 1994 October 14, 1994 October 24, 1994 October 25, 1994 October 29, 1994 October 31, 1994 November 1, 1994 November 1, 1994 November 4, 1994 November 4, 1994 November 4, 1994 November 4, 1994 November 8, 1994 November 9, 1994 November 22, 1994 November 28, 1994 December 8, 1994 December 12, 1994 a b c d e a b c d e f g 9:27:22.9 9:40:36.3 9:47:33.1 10:24:16.3 11:39:31.5 7:15:52.5 7:41:00.7 10:27:07.3 14:26:57.6 15:16:27.8 18:28:22.8 23:04:31.0 9:24:04.5 8:26:40.7 20:20:35.9 16:16:11.7 4:44:32.8 2:13:09.7 12:57:57.4 23:04:05.9 6:02:13.9 14:29:05.4 1:35:32.2 1:43:38.2 5:24:19.7 10:12:41.1 12:45:36.8 21:03:07.3 22:45:07.2 2:47:28.2 15:09:32.9 10:47:50.4 -18.38 -18.42 -18.44 -18.35 -18.34 -18.37 -18.40 -18.40 -18.35 -18.27 -18.35 -18.45 -18.43 -18.32 -18.46 -18.47 -17.69 -20.67 -18.25 -17.93 -17.53 -17.75 -17.76 -17.81 -17.80 -17.72 -17.48 -20.45 -18.44 -19.31 -19.71 -19.67 -172.29 -172.28 -172.29 -172.27 -172.26 -172.25 -172.29 -172.25 -172.26 -172.23 -172.28 -172.29 -172.30 -172.20 -172.65 -172.47 -172.08 -173.01 -172.07 -172.74 -172.04 -172.08 -172.09 -172.07 -172.09 -172.03 -171.97 -173.22 -172.27 -172.51 -173.00 -173.02 47 42 48 45 30 41 39 51 35 32 27 40 35 56 49 64 26 91 65 37 56 30 18 27 36 29 17 18 48 36 58 68 Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group Capricorn group north group north group CMT (not outer rise) north group north group north group CMT, north group CMT, north group 50, 30, 110 Fault Plane Solution Plane 2 Moment (dyn-cm)

0

1 0

1 1

100

Depth (km)

207, 62, 79

5.20x10

23

200

VS

VP

203, 70, 72 220, 72, 88

67, 27, 130 46, 18, 96

8.05x10 6.02x10

22 22

300

400
35, 22, 60 88, 26, 113 247, 71, 101 243, 66, 79 2.27x10 3.20x10
22 22

Profile Along N30E Azimuth

500
IASP91 back arc lau radial lau transverse pacific

P- and S-wave velocity models used for synthetic seismogram generation in the focal mechanism determination process. IASP91 was used for teleseismic stations only. The back arc and pacific models were used for receiving stations in either the Fiji back arc or the Pacific plate. The lau radial and transverse models take into account some of the strong anisotropy in the Lau Basin [12].

References
1. Chapple, W.M. and D.W. Forsyth, Earthquakes and Bending of Plates at Trenches, J. Geophys. Res., 84, 6729-6749, 1979. 2. Chen, T. and D.W. Forsyth, A Detailed Study of Two Earthquakes Seaward of the Tonga Trench: Implications for the Mechanical Behavior of the Oceanic Lithosphere, J. Geophys. Res., 83, 49955003, 1978. 3. Christensen, D.H. and L.J. Ruff, Seismic Coupling and Outer Rise Earthquakes, J. Geophys. Res., 93, 13421-13444, 1988. 4. Crawford, W.C., et al., Tonga Ridge and Lau Basin Crustal Structure From Seismic Refraction Data., J. Geophys. Res., in press, 2001. 5. Forsyth, D.W., Determination of Focal Depths of Earthquakes Associated with the Bending of Oceanic Plates at Trenches, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 28, 141-160, 1982. 6. Jordan, T.H. and K.A. Sverdrup, Teleseismic Location Techniques and Their Application to Earthquake Clusters in the South-Center Pacific, Bull. Seis. Soc. Am., 71, 1105-1130, 1981. 7. Lay, T. et al., Temporal Variation of Large Intraplate Earthquakes in Coupled Subduction Zones, Phys. Earth Planet. In., 54, 258-312, 1989. 8. Mueller, S., W. Spence, and G.L. Choy, Inelastic Models of Lithospheric Stress ñ Implications for Outer-Rise Seismicity and Dynamics, Geophys. J. Int., 125, 54-72, 1996. 9. Scholz, C.H. and C. Small, The Effect of Seamount Subduction on Seismic Coupling, Geology, 25, 487-490, 1997. 10. Ward, S.N., Body Wave Inversion: Momemt Tensors and Depths of Oceanic Intraplate Bending Earthquakes, J. Geophys. Res., 88, 9315-9330, 1983. 11. Wright, D.J. et al., Bathymetry of the Tonga Trench and Forearc: A Map Series, Marine Geophs. Res., 21, 489-511, 2000. 12. Zhao, D. et al., Depth Extent of the Lau-Back-Arc Spreading Center and its Relation to Subduction Processes, Science, 278, 254-257, 1997.

217, 71, 55

102, 39, 149

1.53x10

22

ic en og ism se

ne zo

extension compression

-50

36, 16, 41

266, 80, 102

7.05x10

23

-100

-174˚ -16˚

-173˚

-172˚

-171˚ -16˚

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Depth (km)

203, 27, 87

26, 63, 92

1.78x10

24

-150

te ex

io ns

n

-200

a b a b c d

175, 20, 215 19, 14, 42 350, 88, -150 15, 18, -95

52, 79, 287 248, 81, 100 259, 60, 358 200, 72, 272

2.05x10 7.80x10 4.10x10 1.81x10

25 23 23 24

-250

Capricorn group

56, 34, 113 140, 42, 160

209, 59, 75 245, 77, 50

7.73x10 1.24x10

22 23

-300 -175

-174

Rotated Longitude

-173

-172

Simplified cartoon of an ocean-ocean subduction zone and the implied principal stress directions in the slab. The downgoing flexural outer rise is subject to tension and compression at shallow and deep depths. The seismogenic zone is the locus of interplate coupling. Subduction of asperities like seamounts might be important for increasing seismic coupling and controlling the local seismic cycle.

The relocated earthquake depths in this region of study are plotted perpendicular to the strike of the trench. The shape of the slab and swarm of events on the Capricorn Seamount are evident. Note that the relocation procedure currently uses the IASP91 model only. When multiple models for the region are incorporated into the procedure, we will have more confidence in these absolute depths.

This table shows the outer rise earthquakes in the region of study. These origin times and locations were determined using a multiple-event hypocenter relocation algorithm with phase arrival times [6]. The focal mechanisms were found from regional waveform inversion. The two main clusters of outer rise events are denoted by "Capricorn group" and "north group." The three events with CMT solutions during the OBS deployment are also included.

Since the variation in crustal thickness across the trench axis (5.5 km in the Pacific, 9 km in the arc) is important for the scale of this study, we first constructed velocity models for the Pacific and backarc sides of the trench [12]. The anisotropy in the Lau Basin dictated the creation of two more models for the SH and SV components of the Lau Basin. These models were flattened and used to construct reflectivity synthetic seismograms for stations in the corresponding regions. The hypocenter locations were set by the mutiple-event hypocenter relocation previously performed. Longperoid regional waveform inversion of these synthetics allowed for focal mechanism determination. By searching over a range of fault plane solutions the best-fitting solution was found. Amplitudes were weighted more heavily than shape in order to better fit the surface wave arrivals. A water layer was not accounted for. The four examples above represent the data and synthetic for one vertical and three transverse records.

-17˚

10/31/94

11/4/94b

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10/31/94

11/4/94b

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11/4/94a
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11/4/94a
-18˚

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CMT Solutions

Our Solutions

Comparison of Harvard CMT solutions to our solutions for three events during the OBS deployment. Agreement is exceptional for the 10/31/94 and 11/4/94b events. This helped validify and calibrate our focal mechanism determination procedure.

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