Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract We present a study of the lateral structure and mode of deformation in the transition between the Kuril and Honshu subduction zones. We begin by examining the source characteristics of the January 19, 1969, intermediate depth earthquake north of Hokkaido in the framework of slab-tearing, which for the December 6, 1978 event has been well documented by previous studies. We use a least-squares body wave inversion technique, and find that its focal mechanism is comparable to the 1978 event. To understand the cause of these earthquakes, which in the case of the 1978 event occurred on a vertical tear fault but does not represent “hinge” faulting, we examine the available International Seismological Centre [ISC] hypocenters and Harvard centroid-moment tensor [CMT] solutions to determine the state of stress, and lateral structure and segmentation in the Kuril and northern Honshu slabs. These data are evaluated in the framework of two models. Model (A) requires the subducting slab at the Hokkaido corner to maintain surface area. Model (B) requires slab subduction to be dominated by gravity, with material subducting in the down-dip direction. The distribution of ICS hypocenters shows a gap in deep seismicity down-dip of the Hokkaido corner, supporting model (B). From the CMT data set we find that three types of earthquake focal mechanisms occur. The first (type A) represents dip-slip mechanisms consistent with down-dip tension or compression in the slab in a direction normal to the strike of the trench. These events occur throughout the Honshu and Kuril slabs with focal mechanisms beneath Hokkaido showing NNW plungingP andT axes consistent with the local slab geometry. The second (type B) occurs primarily at depths over 300 km in the southern part of the Kuril slab with a few events in the northern end of the Honshu deep seismicity. These earthquakes have focal mechanisms with P axes oriented roughly E-W, highly oblique to the direction of compression found in the type A events, with which they are spatially interspersed. The third (type C) group of earthquakes are those events which do not fit in either of the first two groups and consist of either strike-slip focal mechanisms, such as the tearing events, or oddly oriented focal mechanisms. Examination of the stress axes orientations for these three types reveals that the compressional axes of the type C events are consistent with those of type B. The slab tearing events are just differential motion reflecting the E-W compressive states of stress which is responsible for the type B family of events. There is no need to invoke down-dip extension which does not fit the slab geometry. We conclude that these two states of stress can be explained as follows: 1) The type A events and the seismicity distribution support model (B). 2) The type B and C events upport model (A). The solution is that the slab subducts according to model (B), but the flow in the mantle maintains a different trajectory, possibly induced by the plate motions, which produces the second state of E-W compressive stress.
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