Weak Interplate Coupling by Seamounts and Repeating M ~ 7 Earthquakes

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Science  29 Aug 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5893, pp. 1194-1197
DOI: 10.1126/science.1160250

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Subducting seamounts are thought to increase the normal stress between subducting and overriding plates. However, recent seismic surveys and laboratory experiments suggest that interplate coupling is weak. A seismic survey in the Japan Trench shows that a large seamount is being subducted near a region of repeating earthquakes of magnitude M ∼ 7. Both observed seismicity and the pattern of rupture propagation during the 1982 M 7.0 event imply that interplate coupling was weak over the seamount. A large rupture area with small slip occurred in front of the seamount. Its northern bound could be determined by a trace of multiple subducted seamounts. Whereas a subducted seamount itself may not define the rupture area, its width may be influenced by that of the seamount.

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