Deep fault plane geometry inferred from multiplet relative relocation beneath the south flank of Kilauea


  • J.-L. Got,

  • J. Fréchet,

  • Fred W. Klein


Dense microearthquake swarms occur in the upper south flank of Kilauea, providing multiplets composed of hundreds of events. The similarity of their waveforms and the quality of the data have been sufficient to provide accurate relative relocations of their hypocenters. A simple and efficient method has been developed which allowed the relative relocation of more than 250 events with an average precision of about 50 m horizontally and 75 m vertically. Relocation of these events greatly improves the definition of the seismic image of the fault that generates them. Indeed, relative relocations define a plane dipping about 6° northward, although corresponding absolute locations are widely dispersed in the swarm. A composite focal mechanism, built from events providing a correct spatial sampling of the multiplet, also gives a well-constrained northward dip of about 5° to the near-horizontal plane. This technique thus collapses the clouds of hypocenters of single-event locations to a plane coinciding with the slip plane revealed by previous focal mechanism studies. We cannot conclude that all south flank earthquakes collapse to a single plane. There may locally be several planes, perhaps with different dips and depths throughout the south flank volume. The 6° northward-dipping plane we found is too steep to represent the overall flexure of the oceanic crust under the load of the island of Hawaii. This plane is probably an important feature that characterizes the basal slip layer below the upper south flank of Kilauea volcano. Differences in seismicity rate and surface deformations between the upper and lower south flank could be related to the geometry of this deep fault plane. The present work illustrates how high precision relative relocations of similar events in dense swarms, combined with the analysis of geodetic measurements, can help to describe deep fault plane geometry. Systematic selection and extensive relative relocation of similar earthquakes could be attempted in other well-instrumented, highly seismic areas to provide reliable basic information, especially useful for understanding of earthquake generation processes.