Crustal anisotropy in the forearc of the Northern Cascadia Subduction Zone, British Columbia



This paper aims to identify sources and variations of crustal anisotropy from shear-wave splitting measurements in the forearc of the Northern Cascadia Subduction Zone of southwest British Columbia. Over 20 permanent stations and 15 temporary stations were available for shear-wave splitting analysis on ∼4500 event-station pairs for local crustal earthquakes. Results from 1100 useable shear-wave splitting measurements show spatial variations in fast directions, with margin-parallel fast directions at most stations and margin-perpendicular fast directions at stations in the northeast of the region. Crustal anisotropy is often attributed to stress and has been interpreted as the fast direction being related to the orientation of the maximum horizontal compressive stress. However, studies have also shown anisotropy can be complicated by crustal structure. Southwest British Columbia is a complex region of crustal deformation and some of the stations are located near large ancient faults. To use seismic anisotropy as a stress indicator requires identifying which stations are influenced by stress and which by structure. We determine the source of anisotropy at each station by comparing fast directions from shear-wave splitting results to the maximum horizontal compressive stress orientation determined from earthquake focal mechanism inversion. Most stations show agreement between the fast direction and the maximum horizontal compressive stress. This suggests that anisotropy is related to stress-aligned fluid-filled microcracks based on extensive dilatancy anisotropy. These stations are further analysed for temporal variations to lay groundwork for monitoring temporal changes in the stress over extended time periods. Determining the sources of variability in anisotropy can lead to a better understanding of the crustal structure and stress, and in the future may be used as a monitoring and mapping tool.