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Keywords:

  • back-arc extension;
  • Andaman Sea;
  • earthquake relocation;
  • earthquake swarms

Abstract

[1] The geometry, kinematics, and mode of back-arc extension along the Andaman Sea plate boundary are refined using a new set of significantly improved hypocenters, global centroid moment tensor (CMT) solutions, and high-resolution bathymetry. By applying cross-correlation and double-difference (DD) algorithms to regional and teleseismic waveforms and arrival times from International Seismological Centre and National Earthquake Information Center bulletins (1964–2009), we resolve the fine-scale structure and spatiotemporal behavior of active faults in the Andaman Sea. The new data reveal that back-arc extension is primarily accommodated at the Andaman Back-Arc Spreading Center (ABSC) at ~10°, which hosted three major earthquake swarms in 1984, 2006, and 2009. Short-term spreading rates estimated from extensional moment tensors account for less than 10% of the long-term 3.0–3.8 cm/yr spreading rate, indicating that spreading by intrusion and the formation of new crust make up for the difference. A spatiotemporal analysis of the swarms and Coulomb-stress modeling show that dike intrusions are the primary driver for brittle failure in the ABSC. While spreading direction is close to ridge normal, it is oblique to the adjacent transforms. The resulting component of E-W extension across the transforms is expressed by deep basins on either side of the rift and a change to extensional faulting along the West Andaman fault system after the Mw = 9.2 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of 2004. A possible skew in slip vectors of earthquakes in the eastern part of the ABSC indicates an en-echelon arrangement of extensional structures, suggesting that the present segment geometry is not in equilibrium with current plate-motion demands, and thus the ridge experiences ongoing re-adjustment.