3-D simulations of M9 earthquakes on the Cascadia Megathrust: Key parameters and uncertainty

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Abstract

Geologic and historical records indicate that the Cascadia subduction zone is capable of generating large, megathrust earthquakes up to magnitude 9. The last great Cascadia earthquake occurred in 1700, and thus there is no direct measure on the intensity of ground shaking or specific rupture parameters from seismic recordings. We use 3-D numerical simulations to generate broadband (0-10 Hz) synthetic seismograms for 50 M9 rupture scenarios on the Cascadia megathrust. Slip consists of multiple high-stress drop subevents (~M8) with short rise times on the deeper portion of the fault, superimposed on a background slip distribution with longer rise times. We find a >4x variation in the intensity of ground shaking depending upon several key parameters, including the down-dip limit of rupture, the slip distribution and location of strong-motion-generating subevents, and the hypocenter location. We find that extending the down-dip limit of rupture to the top of the non-volcanic tremor zone results in a ~2-3x increase in peak ground acceleration for the inland city of Seattle, Washington, compared to a completely offshore rupture. However, our simulations show that allowing the rupture to extend to the up-dip limit of tremor (i.e., the deepest rupture extent in the National Seismic Hazard Maps), even when tapering the slip to zero at the down-dip edge, results in multiple areas of coseismic coastal uplift. This is inconsistent with coastal geologic evidence (e.g., buried soils, submerged forests), which suggests predominantly coastal subsidence for the 1700 earthquake and previous events. Defining the down-dip limit of rupture as the 1 cm/yr locking contour (i.e., mostly offshore) results in primarily coseismic subsidence at coastal sites. We also find that the presence of deep subevents can produce along-strike variations in subsidence and ground shaking along the coast. Our results demonstrate the wide range of possible ground motions from an M9 megathrust earthquake in Cascadia, and the potential to further constrain key rupture parameters using geologic and geophysical observations, ultimately improving our estimation of seismic hazard associated with the Cascadia megathrust.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Abstract or summary
Title 3-D simulations of M9 earthquakes on the Cascadia Megathrust: Key parameters and uncertainty
DOI 10.1130/abs/2017AM-300968
Volume 49
Issue 6
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Proceedings of the 11th National Conference in Earthquake Engineering
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the 11th National Conference in Earthquake Engineering