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Nature ; 456(7222): 631-5, 2008 Dec 04.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-19052626


The great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and tsunami of 2004 was a dramatic reminder of the importance of understanding the seismic and tsunami hazards of subduction zones. In March 2005, the Sunda megathrust ruptured again, producing an event of moment magnitude (M(w)) 8.6 south of the 2004 rupture area, which was the site of a similar event in 1861 (ref. 6). Concern was then focused on the Mentawai area, where large earthquakes had occurred in 1797 (M(w) = 8.8) and 1833 (M(w) = 9.0). Two earthquakes, one of M(w) = 8.4 and, twelve hours later, one of M(w) = 7.9, indeed occurred there on 12 September 2007. Here we show that these earthquakes ruptured only a fraction of the area ruptured in 1833 and consist of distinct asperities within a patch of the megathrust that had remained locked in the interseismic period. This indicates that the same portion of a megathrust can rupture in different patterns depending on whether asperities break as isolated seismic events or cooperate to produce a larger rupture. This variability probably arises from the influence of non-permanent barriers, zones with locally lower pre-stress due to the past earthquakes. The stress state of the portion of the Sunda megathrust that had ruptured in 1833 and 1797 was probably not adequate for the development of a single large rupture in 2007. The moment released in 2007 amounts to only a fraction both of that released in 1833 and of the deficit of moment that had accumulated as a result of interseismic strain since 1833. The potential for a large megathrust event in the Mentawai area thus remains large.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A ; 104(1): 26-30, 2007 Jan 02.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-17182740


Compressional waves that sample the lowermost mantle west of Central America show a rapid change in travel times of up to 4 s over a sampling distance of 300 km and a change in waveforms. The differential travel times of the PKP waves (which traverse Earth's core) correlate remarkably well with predictions for S-wave tomography. Our modeling suggests a sharp transition in the lowermost mantle from a broad slow region to a broad fast region with a narrow zone of slowest anomaly next to the boundary beneath the Cocos Plate and the Caribbean Plate. The structure may be the result of ponding of ancient subducted Farallon slabs situated near the edge of a thermal and chemical upwelling.

Nature ; 427(6974): 530-3, 2004 Feb 05.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-14765192


The seismic discontinuity at 410 km depth in the Earth's mantle is generally attributed to the phase transition of (Mg,Fe)2SiO4 (refs 1, 2) from the olivine to wadsleyite structure. Variation in the depth of this discontinuity is often taken as a proxy for mantle temperature owing to its response to thermal perturbations. For example, a cold anomaly would elevate the 410-km discontinuity, because of its positive Clapeyron slope, whereas a warm anomaly would depress the discontinuity. But trade-offs between seismic wave-speed heterogeneity and discontinuity topography often inhibit detailed analysis of these discontinuities, and structure often appears very complicated. Here we simultaneously model seismic refracted waves and scattered waves from the 410-km discontinuity in the western United States to constrain structure in the region. We find a low-velocity zone, with a shear-wave velocity drop of 5%, on top of the 410-km discontinuity beneath the northwestern United States, extending from southwestern Oregon to the northern Basin and Range province. This low-velocity zone has a thickness that varies from 20 to 90 km with rapid lateral variations. Its spatial extent coincides with both an anomalous composition of overlying volcanism and seismic 'receiver-function' observations observed above the region. We interpret the low-velocity zone as a compositional anomaly, possibly due to a dense partial-melt layer, which may be linked to prior subduction of the Farallon plate and back-arc extension. The existence of such a layer could be indicative of high water content in the Earth's transition zone.