Interseismic and coseismic motions in GPS series related to the Ms 7.3 July 13, 1994, Malekula Earthquake, Central New Hebrides Subduction Zone



On July 13, 1994, an earthquake Ms=7.3 occurred at Malekula, in the New Hebrides archipelago. The GPS data collected across the New Hebrides trench between 1990 and 1996 were processed in order to separate the interseismic and coseismic motions from the drifts related to the convergence with the Australian plate. The GPS-derived coseismic displacements at the GPS site in Malekula are 49 ± 15 mm southward, 230 ± 30 mm westward and 170 ± 37 mm downward, when the CMT-derived displacements are 50 mm southward, 210 mm westward and 150 mm downward. Taking into account the interseismic strain accumulation (25 mm/yr at the source established from historical seismicity, 7.5 mm/yr at the GPS site), the strain-free convergence rate at Malekula is 49 ± 3 mm/yr. Other GPS-derived convergence rates are 95 ± 1 mm/yr at Efate and 37 ± 2 mm/yr at Santo. These rates imply a regional right-lateral motion between the Efate and the Santo-Malekula segments. In contrast, the focal mechanism of the earthquake mostly indicates a left-lateral motion. Therefore, we hypothesize that the earthquake is related to variations in the interplate coupling along the converging boundary of the Santo-Malekula segment.