On the role of trans-lithospheric faults in the long-term seismotectonic segmentation of active margins: a case study in the Andes

Yanez, Gonzalo; Piquer, Jose; Rivera, Orlando

Plate coupling play a fundamental role in the way in which seismic energy is released during the seismic cycle. This process includes quasi-instantaneous release during megathrust earthquakes and long-term creep. Both mechanisms can coexist in a given subducting margin, defining a seismotectonic segmentation in which seismically active segments are separated by zones in which ruptures stop, classified for simplicity as asperities and barrier, respectively. The spatiotemporal stability of this segmentation has been a matter of debate in the seismological community for decades. At this regard, we explore in this paper the potential role of the interaction between geological heterogeneities in the overriding plate and fluids released from the subducting slab towards the subduction channel. As a case study, we take the convergence between the Nazca and South American plates between 18°–40° S, given its relatively simple convergence style and the availability of a high-quality instrumental and historical record. We postulate that trans-lithospheric faults striking at a high angle with respect to the trench behave as large fluid sinks that create the appropriate conditions for the development of barriers and promote the growth of highly coupled asperity domains in their periphery. We tested this hypothesis against key short- and long-term observations in the study area, obtaining consistent results. If the spatial distribution of asperities is controlled by the geology of the overriding plate, seismic risk assessment could be established with better confidence.

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Yanez, Gonzalo / Piquer, Jose / Rivera, Orlando: On the role of trans-lithospheric faults in the long-term seismotectonic segmentation of active margins: a case study in the Andes. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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