Refining the shallow slip deficit

Xu, X, Tong X, Sandwell DT, Milliner CWD, Dolan JF, Hollingsworth J, Leprince S, Ayoub F.  2016.  Refining the shallow slip deficit. Geophysical Journal International. 204:1867-1886.

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Geodetic slip inversions for three major (Mw > 7) strike-slip earthquakes (1992 Landers, 1999 Hector Mine and 2010 El Mayor–Cucapah) show a 15–60 per cent reduction in slip near the surface (depth < 2 km) relative to the slip at deeper depths (4–6 km). This significant difference between surface coseismic slip and slip at depth has been termed the shallow slip deficit (SSD). The large magnitude of this deficit has been an enigma since it cannot be explained by shallow creep during the interseismic period or by triggered slip from nearby earthquakes. One potential explanation for the SSD is that the previous geodetic inversions lack data coverage close to surface rupture such that the shallow portions of the slip models are poorly resolved and generally underestimated. In this study, we improve the static coseismic slip inversion for these three earthquakes, especially at shallow depths, by: (1) including data capturing the near-fault deformation from optical imagery and SAR azimuth offsets; (2) refining the interferometric synthetic aperture radar processing with non-boxcar phase filtering, model-dependent range corrections, more complete phase unwrapping by SNAPHU (Statistical Non-linear Approach for Phase Unwrapping) assuming a maximum discontinuity and an on-fault correlation mask; (3) using more detailed, geologically constrained fault geometries and (4) incorporating additional campaign global positioning system (GPS) data. The refined slip models result in much smaller SSDs of 3–19 per cent. We suspect that the remaining minor SSD for these earthquakes likely reflects a combination of our elastic model's inability to fully account for near-surface deformation, which will render our estimates of shallow slip minima, and potentially small amounts of interseismic fault creep or triggered slip, which could ‘make up’ a small percentages of the coseismic SSD during the interseismic period. Our results indicate that it is imperative that slip inversions include accurate measurements of near-fault surface deformation to reliably constrain spatial patterns of slip during major strike-slip earthquakes.