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Repeating Deep Earthquakes: Evidence for Fault Reactivation at Great Depth

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Science  24 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5534, pp. 1463-1466
DOI: 10.1126/science.1063042

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Abstract

We have identified three groups of deep earthquakes showing nearly identical waveforms in the Tonga slab. Relocation with a cross-correlation method shows that each cluster is composed of 10 to 30 earthquakes along a plane 10 to 30 kilometers in length. Some of the earthquakes are colocated, demonstrating repeated rupture of the same fault, and one pair of events shows identical rupture complexity, suggesting that the temporal and spatial rupture pattern was repeated. Recurrence intervals show an inverse time distribution, indicating a strong temporal control over fault reactivation. Runaway thermal shear instabilities may explain temporally clustered earthquakes with similar waveforms located along slip zones weakened by shear heating. Earthquake doublets that occur within a few hours are consistent with events recurring before the thermal energy of the initial rupture can diffuse away.

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