Seismological analyses of the 2010 March 11, Pichilemu, Chile Mw 7.0 and Mw 6.9 coastal intraplate earthquakes

Geophysical Journal International
By: , and 



On 2010 March 11, a sequence of large, shallow continental crust earthquakes shook central Chile. Two normal faulting events with magnitudes around Mw 7.0 and Mw 6.9 occurred just 15 min apart, located near the town of Pichilemu. These kinds of large intraplate, inland crustal earthquakes are rare above the Chilean subduction zone, and it is important to better understand their relationship with the 2010 February 27, Mw 8.8, Maule earthquake, which ruptured the adjacent megathrust plate boundary. We present a broad seismological analysis of these earthquakes by using both teleseismic and regional data. We compute seismic moment tensors for both events via a W-phase inversion, and test sensitivities to various inversion parameters in order to assess the stability of the solutions. The first event, at 14 hr 39 min GMT, is well constrained, displaying a fault plane with strike of N145°E, and a preferred dip angle of 55°SW, consistent with the trend of aftershock locations and other published results. Teleseismic finite-fault inversions for this event show a large slip zone along the southern part of the fault, correlating well with the reported spatial density of aftershocks. The second earthquake (14 hr 55 min GMT) appears to have ruptured a fault branching southward from the previous ruptured fault, within the hanging wall of the first event. Modelling seismograms at regional to teleseismic distances (Δ > 10°) is quite challenging because the observed seismic wave fields of both events overlap, increasing apparent complexity for the second earthquake. We perform both point- and extended-source inversions at regional and teleseismic distances, assessing model sensitivities resulting from variations in fault orientation, dimension, and hypocentre location. Results show that the focal mechanism for the second event features a steeper dip angle and a strike rotated slightly clockwise with respect to the previous event. This kind of geological fault configuration, with secondary rupture in the hanging wall of a large normal fault, is commonly observed in extensional geological regimes. We propose that both earthquakes form part of a typical normal fault diverging splay, where the secondary fault connects to the main fault at depth. To ascertain more information on the spatial and temporal details of slip for both events, we gathered near-fault seismological and geodetic data. Through forward modelling of near-fault synthetic seismograms we build a kinematic k−2 earthquake source model with spatially distributed slip on the fault that, to first-order, explains both coseismic static displacement GPS vectors and short-period seismometer observations at the closest sites. As expected, the results for the first event agree with the focal mechanism derived from teleseismic modelling, with a magnitude Mw 6.97. Similarly, near-fault modelling for the second event suggests rupture along a normal fault, Mw 6.90, characterized by a steeper dip angle (dip = 74°) and a strike clockwise rotated (strike = 155°) with respect to the previous event.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Seismological analyses of the 2010 March 11, Pichilemu, Chile Mw 7.0 and Mw 6.9 coastal intraplate earthquakes
Series title Geophysical Journal International
DOI 10.1093/gji/ggt513
Volume 196
Issue 3
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Oxford University Press
Contributing office(s) National Earthquake Information Center
Description 21 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Geophysical Journal International
Country Chile
City Pichilemu
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