Implications of the earthquake cycle for inferring fault locking on the Cascadia megathrust

Geophysical Journal International
By:  and 



GPS velocity fields in the Western US have been interpreted with various physical models of the lithosphere-asthenosphere system: (1) time-independent block models; (2) time-dependent viscoelastic-cycle models, where deformation is driven by viscoelastic relaxation of the lower crust and upper mantle from past faulting events; (3) viscoelastic block models, a time-dependent variation of the block model. All three models are generally driven by a combination of loading on locked faults and (aseismic) fault creep. Here we construct viscoelastic block models and viscoelastic-cycle models for the Western US, focusing on the Pacific Northwest and the earthquake cycle on the Cascadia megathrust. In the viscoelastic block model, the western US is divided into blocks selected from an initial set of 137 microplates using the method of Total Variation Regularization, allowing potential trade-offs between faulting and megathrust coupling to be determined algorithmically from GPS observations. Fault geometry, slip rate, and locking rates (i.e. the locking fraction times the long term slip rate) are estimated simultaneously within the TVR block model. For a range of mantle asthenosphere viscosity (4.4 × 1018 to 3.6 × 1020 Pa s) we find that fault locking on the megathrust is concentrated in the uppermost 20 km in depth, and a locking rate contour line of 30 mm yr−1 extends deepest beneath the Olympic Peninsula, characteristics similar to previous time-independent block model results. These results are corroborated by viscoelastic-cycle modelling. The average locking rate required to fit the GPS velocity field depends on mantle viscosity, being higher the lower the viscosity. Moreover, for viscosity ≲ 1020 Pa s, the amount of inferred locking is higher than that obtained using a time-independent block model. This suggests that time-dependent models for a range of admissible viscosity structures could refine our knowledge of the locking distribution and its epistemic uncertainty.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Implications of the earthquake cycle for inferring fault locking on the Cascadia megathrust
Series title Geophysical Journal International
DOI 10.1093/gji/ggx009
Volume 209
Issue 1
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Oxford University Press
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description 19 p.
First page 167
Last page 185
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