Tidal Modulation of Nonvolcanic Tremor

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Science  11 Jan 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5860, pp. 186-189
DOI: 10.1126/science.1150558

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Episodes of nonvolcanic tremor and accompanying slow slip recently have been observed in the subduction zones of Japan and Cascadia. In Cascadia, such episodes typically last a few weeks and differ from “normal” earthquakes in their source location and moment-duration scaling. The three most recent episodes in the Puget Sound/southern Vancouver Island portion of the Cascadia subduction zone were exceptionally well recorded. In each episode, we saw clear pulsing of tremor activity with periods of 12.4 and 24 to 25 hours, the same as the principal lunar and lunisolar tides. This indicates that the small stresses associated with the solid-earth and ocean tides influence the genesis of tremor much more effectively than they do the genesis of normal earthquakes. Because the lithostatic stresses are 105 times larger than those associated with the tides, we argue that tremor occurs on very weak faults.

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