A key step in many earthquake source inversions requires knowledge of the geometry of the fault surface on which the earthquake occurred. Our knowledge of this surface is often uncertain, however, and as a result fault geometry misinterpretation can map into significant error in the final temporal and spatial slip patterns of these inversions. Relying solely on an initial hypocentre and CMT mechanism can be problematic when establishing rupture characteristics needed for rapid tsunami and ground shaking estimates.
Here, we attempt to improve the quality of fast finite-fault inversion results by combining several independent and complementary data sets to more accurately constrain the geometry of the seismic rupture plane of subducting slabs. Unlike previous analyses aimed at defining the general form of the plate interface, we require mechanisms and locations of the seismicity considered in our inversions to be consistent with their occurrence on the plate interface, by limiting events to those with well-constrained depths and with CMT solutions indicative of shallow-dip thrust faulting. We construct probability density functions about each location based on formal assumptions of their depth uncertainty and use these constraints to solve for the ‘most-likely’ fault plane.
Examples are shown for the trench in the source region of the Mw 8.6 Southern Sumatra earthquake of March 2005, and for the Northern Chile Trench in the source region of the November 2007 Antofagasta earthquake. We also show examples using only the historic catalogues in regions without recent great earthquakes, such as the Japan and Kamchatka Trenches. In most cases, this method produces a fault plane that is more consistent with all of the data available than is the plane implied by the initial hypocentre and CMT mechanism. Using the aggregated data sets, we have developed an algorithm to rapidly determine more accurate initial fault plane geometries for source inversions of future earthquakes.