Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Earthquake evidence for along-arc extension in the Mariana Islands



[1] Analysis of data from a deployment of ocean bottom and land seismographs in 2003–2004 detected four swarms of earthquakes in the overriding plate of the Mariana subduction system between the fore-arc and the back-arc spreading center. Two additional shallow swarms were identified by analyzing the teleseismic earthquake catalogs from 1967 to 2003. Focal mechanism solutions for these swarms, determined from regional waveform inversion for the 2003–2004 events or retrieved from the Centroid Moment Tensor catalog for previous years, suggest a complex system of deformation throughout the arc. We observe arc-parallel extension near volcanic cross chains, arc-perpendicular extension along the frontal arc, and arc-parallel compression farther into the back arc near the Mariana Trough. A swarm beneath the middle and eastern summits of the Diamante cross chain may have recorded magmatic activity. Volcanic cross chains showing evidence of adiabatic decompression melting from extensional upwelling are localized at regions of enhanced along-strike extension. The earthquake data are consistent with recent GPS results indicating 12 mm/a of extension between Guam and Agrihan. The along-arc extension may result from either increasing curvature of the Mariana system with time or from deformation induced by oblique subduction in the northernmost and southernmost regions of the arc.