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Seismicity patterns along the Ecuadorian subduction zone: new constraints from earthquake location in a 3-D a priori velocity model,

Abstract : To improve earthquake location, we create a 3-D a priori P-wave velocity model (3-DVM) that approximates the large velocity variations of the Ecuadorian subduction system. The 3-DVM is constructed from the integration of geophysical and geological data that depend on the structural geometry and velocity properties of the crust and the upper mantle. In addition, specific station selection is carried out to compensate for the high station density on the Andean Chain. 3-D synthetic experiments are then designed to evaluate the network capacity to recover the event position using only P arrivals and the MAXI technique. Three synthetic earthquake location experiments are proposed: (1) noise-free and (2) noisy arrivals used in the 3-DVM, and (3) noise-free arrivals used in a 1-DVM. Synthetic results indicate that, under the best conditions (exact arrival data set and 3-DVM), the spatiotemporal configuration of the Ecuadorian network can accurately locate 70 per cent of events in the frontal part of the subduction zone (average azimuthal gap is 289° ± 44°). Noisy P arrivals (up to ± 0.3 s) can accurately located 50 per cent of earthquakes. Processing earthquake location within a 1-DVM almost never allows accurate hypocentre position for offshore earthquakes (15 per cent), which highlights the role of using a 3-DVM in subduction zone. For the application to real data, the seismicity distribution from the 3-D-MAXI catalogue is also compared to the determinations obtained in a 1-D-layered VM. In addition to good-quality location uncertainties, the clustering and the depth distribution confirm the 3-D-MAXI catalogue reliability. The pattern of the seismicity distribution (a 13 yr record during the inter-seismic period of the seismic cycle) is compared to the pattern of rupture zone and asperity of the Mw = 7.9 1942 and the Mw = 7.7 1958 events (the Mw = 8.8 1906 asperity patch is not defined). We observe that the nucleation of 1942, 1958 and 1906 events coincides with areas of positive Simple Bouguer anomalies and areas where marine terraces are still preserved on the coastal morphology. From north to south: (1) the 1958 rupture zone is almost aseismic and is attributed to a zone of high coupling; (2) south of the Galera alignment (perpendicular to the trench), the 1942 rupture zone presents moderate seismicity, deeper on the seismogenic interplate zone, and abutting on the Jama cluster (to the south). This cluster is facing the Cabo Pasado cap and positive Bouguer anomalies on the overriding margin. We suspect that this cluster reflects a zone of local asperity (partial coupling). South of the Jama cluster, the spherical aseismic zone in the Bahia area is interpreted as having a low seismic coupling (steady creep motion or slow slip events). We suspect that the site that generated the three M > 7 events (1896, 1956 and 1998) correspond to a small patch of strong coupling. To the south, in the Manta-Puerto Lopez zone, the seismicity is mainly organized in earthquake swarms (1998, 2002, 2005). Although slow slip events have been observed in the area (Vallée et al. submitted), we infer from the coastline shape, the marine terraces and the high positive Bouguer anomalies that the seismicity here might reveal a significant amount of seismic coupling.
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Y. Font, M. Segovia, S. Vaca, T. Theunissen. Seismicity patterns along the Ecuadorian subduction zone: new constraints from earthquake location in a 3-D a priori velocity model,. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2013, 193 (1), pp.263-286. ⟨10.1093/gji/ggs083⟩. ⟨hal-00873478⟩

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