Low-Frequency Earthquakes Downdip of Deep Slow Slip Beneath the North Island of New Zealand


We report the first catalog of low-frequency earthquakes in the Hikurangi subduction zone, located beneath the Kaimanawa Range of the North Island at 50 km depth, downdip of regularly recurring (every 4–5 years) deep M7 slow slip events. To systematically detect low-frequency earthquakes within the regional continuous seismic data, we utilized a matched-filter approach with template waveforms derived from previous observations of tectonic tremor. We built our catalog of 36 low-frequency earthquake sources, that produced almost 21,000 events over more than a decade, with two matched-filter search iterations. In each iteration, the detections were gathered into families and their coherent waveforms processed and stacked to extract high-quality waveforms, allowing us to pick seismic phase arrivals to locate the low-frequency earthquakes. We highlight three characteristic features to validate that our detected events are indeed low-frequency earthquakes: the eponymous deficit of high frequencies in their seismic waveforms, the episodic swarms of activity that define their activity through time, and their location at the plate boundary with a double-couple source mechanism and geometry consistent with the subduction interface. Considering the observed low-frequency earthquakes’ relationship to neighboring slow slip, we observe the event swarms to occur much more frequently than the M7 slow slip events located just updip. Similar to other deep low-frequency earthquakes in other subduction zones, we suggest that this characteristic clustering in time is driven by more frequent, smaller slow slip events that are not clearly observable at the surface.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Florent Aden-Antoniow
Florent Aden-Antoniow
R&D Data Scientist

I am interested in the statistical behavior of earthquakes.

William B. Frank
William B. Frank
Assistant Professor

My research focuses on how the Earth’s crust deforms over a broad range spatiotemporal scales.