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Keywords:

  • Seismicity and tectonics;
  • Subduction zone processes;
  • Indian Ocean

SUMMARY

Great subduction earthquakes exhibit segmentation both within the rupture of individual events and in the long term history of the margin. The 2004 December 26 Aceh-Andaman and 2005 March 28 Nias event in northern Sumatra are two of the largest earthquakes in recent years, with both co- and post-seismic displacements constrained in unprecedented detail. Using aftershock locations from a temporary seismic array in the boundary region between both events and waveform modelling of large aftershocks, we demonstrate that the vast majority of aftershocks in the study region occur on the plate interface within a narrow band (inline image20 km) seaward of the outer arc high. Comparing the seismicity distribution to the co- and post-seismic displacements, we infer that the seismic band marks the transition between the seismogenic zone and stable sliding. The location of the band and therefore the transition appears to be correlated with the ∼500 m bathymetry contour. This close correspondence is disrupted at the boundary between the two great earthquakes, where the transition to seismogenic behaviour occurs further landward by ∼25 km. To the west of Simeulue, where seafloor bathymetry throughout the forearc is deeper than 500 m, the seismic band terminates abruptly and the focus of aftershock activity is found near the trench. The seismic efficiency of afterslip varies dramatically along strike: the segment below the Banyak islands, in the gap between the two main asperities of the Nias earthquake, accommodates a much larger proportion of afterslip seismically.