Publications

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2018
Xu, XH, Sandwell DT, Bassett D.  2018.  A spectral expansion approach for geodetic slip inversion: implications for the downdip rupture limits of oceanic and continental megathrust earthquakes. Geophysical Journal International. 212:400-411.   10.1093/gji/ggx408   AbstractWebsite

We have developed a data-driven spectral expansion inversion method to place bounds on the downdip rupture depth of large megathrust earthquakes having good InSAR and GPS coverage. This inverse theory approach is used to establish the set of models that are consistent with the observations. In addition, the inverse theory method demonstrates that the spatial resolution of the slip models depends on two factors, the spatial coverage and accuracy of the surface deformation measurements, and the slip depth. Application of this method to the 2010 M-w 8.8 Maule Earthquake shows a slip maximum at 19 km depth tapering to zero at similar to 40 km depth. In contrast, the continent-continent megathrust earthquakes of the Himalayas, for example 2015 M-w 7.8 Gorkha Earthquake, shows a slip maximum at 9 km depth tapering to zero at similar to 18 km depth. The main question is why is the maximum slip depth of the continental megathrust earthquake only 50 per cent of that observed in oceanic megathrust earthquakes. To understand this difference, we have developed a simple 1-D heat conduction model that includes the effects of uplift and surface erosion. The relatively low erosion rates above the ocean megathrust results in a geotherm where the 450-600 degrees C transition is centred at similar to 40 km depth. In contrast, the relatively high average erosion rates in the Himalayas of similar to 1 mm yr-1 results in a geotherm where the 450-600 degrees C transition is centred at similar to 20 km. Based on these new observations and models, we suggest that the effect of erosion rate on temperature explains the difference in the maximum depth of the seismogenic zone between Chile and the Himalayas.

2015
Neves, MC, Cabral J, Luttrell K, Figueiredo P, Rockwell T, Sandwell D.  2015.  The effect of sea level changes on fault reactivation potential in Portugal. Tectonophysics. 658:206-220.   10.1016/j.tecto.2015.07.023   AbstractWebsite

The aim of this study is to assess the impact of sea level changes on both the stress field and the potential of fault reactivation in west Iberia. The analysis is applied to a set of five active faults distributed across Portugal, selected for representing predominant fault directions and for being seismically active. The results show that the rise of sea level since the Last Glacial Maximum has produced flexural effects with distinct impacts on different faults. The Coulomb stress changes induced by the sea level rise along the S. Marcos-Quarteira (south Portugal) and the Horseshoe (offshore SW Iberia) faults are found to be extremely small, independently of the elastic plate thickness. These faults are thus unaffected by flexural effects related to ocean loading, and are unlikely to possess any paleoseismic record of this phenomenon. In contrast, the eustatic sea level rise during the late Pleistocene could have raised the Coulomb stress by 0.5-1 MPa along the Manteigas-Vilarica-Braganca (north Portugal) and Lower Tagus Valley (Lisbon area) fault systems. Such stress perturbations are probably sufficient to impact the seismic cycle of the Manteigas-Vilarica-Braganca fault, bringing it closer to failure and possibly triggering the earthquake clusters that have been observed in previous paleoseismologic studies. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2010
Luttrell, K, Sandwell D.  2010.  Ocean loading effects on stress at near shore plate boundary fault systems. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 115   10.1029/2009jb006541   AbstractWebsite

Changes in eustatic sea level since the Last Glacial Maximum create a differential load across coastlines globally. The resulting plate bending in response to this load alters the state of stress within the lithosphere within a half flexural wavelength of the coast. We calculate the perturbation to the total stress tensor due to ocean loading in coastal regions. Our stress calculation is fully 3-D and makes use of a semianalytic model to efficiently calculate stresses within a thick elastic plate overlying a viscoelastic or fluid half-space. The 3-D stress perturbation is resolved into normal and shear stresses on plate boundary fault planes of known orientation so that Coulomb stress perturbations can be calculated. In the absence of complete paleoseismic indicators that span the time since the Last Glacial Maximum, we investigate the possibility that the seismic cycle of coastal plate boundary faults was affected by stress perturbations due to the change in sea level. Coulomb stress on onshore transform faults, such as the San Andreas and Alpine faults, is increased by up to 1-1.5 MPa, respectively, promoting failure primarily through a reduction in normal stress. These stress perturbations may perceptibly alter the seismic cycle of major plate boundary faults, but such effects are more likely to be observed on nearby secondary faults with a lower tectonic stress accumulation rate. In the specific instance of rapid sea level rise at the Black Sea, the seismic cycle of the nearby North Anatolian fault was likely significantly advanced.

2007
Luttrell, K, Sandwell D, Smith-Konter B, Bills B, Bock Y.  2007.  Modulation of the earthquake cycle at the southern San Andreas fault by lake loading. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 112   10.1029/2006jb004752   AbstractWebsite

Changes in the level of ancient Lake Cahuilla over the last 1500 years in the Salton Trough alter the state of stress by bending the lithosphere in response to the applied lake load and by varying the pore pressure magnitude within the crust. The recurrence interval of the lake is similar to the recurrence interval of rupture on the southern San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, both of which are partially covered by the lake at its highstand. Furthermore, four of the last five ruptures on the southern San Andreas fault have occurred near a time of substantial lake level change. We investigate the effect of Coulomb stress perturbations on local faults due to changing level of Lake Cahuilla to determine a possible role for the lake in affecting the timing of fault rupture. Coulomb stress is calculated with a three-dimensional model of an elastic plate overlying a viscoelastic half-space. Plate thickness and half-space relaxation time are adjusted to match observed vertical deformation since the last lake highstand. The lake cycle causes positive and negative Coulomb stress perturbations of 0.2-0.6 MPa on the southern San Andreas within the lake and 0.1-0.2 MPa on the southern San Andreas outside the lake. These Coulomb stress perturbations are comparable to stress magnitudes known to have triggered events at other faults along the North America-Pacific plate boundary.