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Geophysical Research Letters

Geometrical effects of a subducted seamount on stopping megathrust ruptures

Authors

  • Hongfeng Yang,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA
    2. School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
    • Corresponding author: H. Yang, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA. (hyang@gatech.edu)

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  • Yajing Liu,

    1. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA
    2. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Jian Lin

    1. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA
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Abstract

[1] We have numerically simulated dynamic ruptures along a “slip-weakening” megathrust fault with a subducted seamount of realistic geometry, demonstrating that seamounts can act as a barrier to earthquake ruptures. Such barrier effect is calculated to be stronger for increased seamount normal stress relative to the ambient level, for larger seamount height-to-width ratio, and for shorter seamount-to-nucleation distance. As the seamount height increases from 0 to 40% of its basal width, the required increase in the effective normal stress on the seamount to stop ruptures drops by as much as ~20%. We further demonstrate that when a seamount is subducted adjacent to the earthquake nucleation zone, coseismic ruptures can be stopped even if the seamount has a lower effective normal stress than the ambient level. These results indicate that subducted seamounts may stop earthquake ruptures for a wide range of seamount normal stress conditions, including the case of the thrust fault being lubricated by seamount-top fluid-rich sediments, as suggested from observations in the Japan and Sunda Trenches.

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