Strength of stick-slip and creeping subduction megathrusts from heat flow observations

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Science  29 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6200, pp. 1038-1041
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255487

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Strong yet creeping megathrust faults

Powerful faults in subduction zones, called “megathrust faults,” produce the largest earthquakes on Earth. Gao and Wang use heat flow data to show that when the faults subduct jagged sea floor, they generate tamer earthquakes than do faults that subduct smooth sea floor. The rugged sea floor brings irregularities into the fault that cause it to deform slowly over time, which results in a comparatively higher fault strength and lower seismicity. The finding has a direct impact on assessing regional earthquake and tsunami hazards.

Science, this issue p. 1038