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TitleThermal constraints on the zone of major thrust earthquake failure: the Cascadia subduction zone
AuthorHyndman, R D; Wang, K
SourceJournal of Geophysical Research, Solid Earth vol. 98, no. B2, 1993 p. 2039-2060,
Alt SeriesGeological Survey of Canada, Contribution Series 38191
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
ProvinceWestern offshore region
AreaCascadia Subduction Zone
Lat/Long WENS-130.0000 -125.0000 50.0000 45.0000
Subjectsgeophysics; marine geology; tectonics; subduction zones; faults, thrust; continental margins; continental shelf; earthquakes; seismicity; pore pressures; thermal regimes; heat flow; oceanic crust; modelling; sedimentary wedges; plate motions
Illustrationslocation maps; schematic diagrams; seismic reflection profiles; tables; formulae; graphs; plots
Released2012 09 20
AbstractConstraints on the seismogenic portion of the subduction thrust zone along the Cascadia margin are provided by the thermal regime. The zone of stick-slip "locked" behavior where earthquakes can nucleate may be limited downdip by a temperature of about 350°C, and the transition stable sliding zone into which coseismic displacement can extend by a temperature of approximately 450°C. The seaward limit of the stick-slip zone may be associated with the dehydration of stable sliding clays at 100 to 150°C and dissipation of high pore pressures in the area of the deformation front. Temperatures on the thrust have been estimated by numerically modelling the thermal regimes along three profiles crossing the margin with constraints provided by surface heat flow and detailed structural information, particularly at southern Vancouver Island. The models that best fit the heat flow data have negligible shear strain heating. The Cascadia subduction margin is unusually hot as a consequence of the very young plate age and the thick insulating sediment section on the incoming plate; the temperature at the top of the oceanic crust at the deformation front is about 250°C. As a result, the modelled zone of stick-slip seismogenic behaviour is restricted to a narrow zone beneath the continental slope and outer shelf, with the transition zone extending to the inner shelf. The seismogenic zone is wider off the Olympic Peninsula compared to off southern Vancouver Island because of the much shallower thrust dip angle and the slightly older incoming plate. The profile off Oregon is found to have intermediate width zones. An important assumption, well justified only off southern Vancouver Island, is that the thrust detachment is located at the top of the downgoing oceanic crust. The same modelling technique shows that more typical subduction zones with older incoming oceanic lithosphere such as central Chile have thermally restricted seismogenic zones that are much wider, commonly extending well beneath the coast. Support for the position of the Cascadia locked zone from the thermal results is provided by a comparison of the horizontal and vertical interseismic deformation predicted by simple dislocation models with the observed rates from tide gauge and geodetic surveys on adjacent coastal regions. The general agreement indicates that any seismic "locked zone" must be located offshore where the subduction thrust fault is less than about 20 km deep and where the contact is between the oceanic crust and the accreted sedimentary wedge, not between the oceanic and continental crusts. The restriction to an offshore zone provides an important limit to the maximum magnitude and to the ground motion and seismic hazard from subduction megathrust earthquakes in southwestern British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.