Intense foreshocks and a slow slip event preceded the 2014 Iquique Mw 8.1 earthquake

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Science  05 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6201, pp. 1165-1169
DOI: 10.1126/science.1256074

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The earthquake that rocked northern Chile

Subduction zones often produce the largest earthquakes on Earth. A magnitude 8.2 earthquake (Iquique) occurred in one such zone off the coast of northern Chile on 1 April 2014, in a seismic gap that had not experienced a large earthquake since the 9.0 one in 1877. Ruiz et al. analyzed continuous GPS data to monitor the movement of plates over time in this region, including before and after major earthquakes. The most recent large quake was preceded by an extended series of smaller earthquakes and creeping westward movement of the coastline.

Science, this issue p. 1165


The subduction zone in northern Chile is a well-identified seismic gap that last ruptured in 1877. The moment magnitude (Mw) 8.1 Iquique earthquake of 1 April 2014 broke a highly coupled portion of this gap. To understand the seismicity preceding this event, we studied the location and mechanisms of the foreshocks and computed Global Positioning System (GPS) time series at stations located on shore. Seismicity off the coast of Iquique started to increase in January 2014. After 16 March, several Mw > 6 events occurred near the low-coupled zone. These events migrated northward for ~50 kilometers until the 1 April earthquake occurred. On 16 March, on-shore continuous GPS stations detected a westward motion that we model as a slow slip event situated in the same area where the mainshock occurred.

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