Seismic Slip and Down-Dip Strain Rates in Wadati-Benioff Zones

Science  03 Jun 1988:
Vol. 240, Issue 4857, pp. 1317-1319
DOI: 10.1126/science.240.4857.1317


The rate of accumulation of seismic moment in Wadati-Benioff zones is used to estimate strain rates in subducting slabs that are sinking through the asthenosphere. Between depths of 75 and 175 kilometers a typical down-dip strain rate is about 10-15 per second, which implies that slabs in this depth range typically accumulate strain of order 10-1. This result is in accord with geometrical arguments that subducted slabs must experience large membrane strains to deform to their observed shapes. Mantle seismicity (repeated catastrophic shear failure) is apparently a primary mechanism by which large membrane strains accumulate in the cold cores of subducting slabs. Slabs are penetratively deformed, and they have low flexural rigidity compared to oceanic plates at the earth's surface.

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