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The 1994 Bolivia and Tonga events: Fundamentally different types of deep earthquakes?



The 1994 Bolivia and Tonga events show large differences in source and aftershock properties. The Bolivia earthquake, characterized by high stress drop, slow rupture propagation, and a weak aftershock sequence, appears similar to other large deep earthquakes that are isolated from active seismic zones, including the 1970 Colombia earthquake. In contrast, the 1994 Tonga event showed stress drop, rupture propagation velocities, and an aftershock sequence similar to that found for shallow earthquakes. The aftershock sequence of the 1994 Tonga event is many times stronger than has been observed for any other deep earthquake. A survey of deep earthquake aftershocks suggests that aftershock occurrence is correlated with the overall subduction zone magnitude-frequency relation (b-value). The largest deep events occur in isolated regions lacking smaller earthquakes, or in subduction zones characterized by anomalously low b-values. The 1994 Tonga event is an exception and is the largest deep earthquake to occur within an active subduction zone showing a large b-value, perhaps explaining the strong aftershock sequence. The Bolivia and Tonga events may represent end members of a population of deep earthquakes showing exceptional diversity in source properties, or they may represent two fundamentally different types of deep earthquakes, perhaps resulting from different physical mechanisms.

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