Imbricated slip rate processes during slow slip transients imaged by low-frequency earthquakes


Low Frequency Earthquakes (LFEs) often occur in conjunction with transient strain episodes, or Slow Slip Events (SSEs), in subduction zones. Their focal mechanism and location consistent with shear failure on the plate interface argue for a model where LFEs are discrete dynamic ruptures in an otherwise slowly slipping interface. SSEs are mostly observed by surface geodetic instruments with limited resolution and it is likely that only the largest ones are detected. The time synchronization of LFEs and SSEs suggests that we could use the recorded LFEs to constrain the evolution of SSEs, and notably of the geodetically-undetected small ones. However, inferring slow slip rate from the temporal evolution of LFE activity is complicated by the strong temporal clustering of LFEs. Here we apply dedicated statistical tools to retrieve the temporal evolution of SSE slip rates from the time history of LFE occurrences in two subduction zones, Mexico and Cascadia, and in the deep portion of the San Andreas fault at Parkfield. We find temporal characteristics of LFEs that are similar across these three different regions. The longer term episodic slip transients present in these datasets show a slip rate decay with time after the passage of the SSE front possibly as $t^-1/4$. They are composed of multiple short term transients with steeper slip rate decay as $t^-α$ with $α$ between 1.4 and 2. We also find that the maximum slip rate of SSEs has a continuous distribution. Our results indicate that creeping faults host intermittent deformation at various scales resulting from the imbricated occurrence of numerous slow slip events of various amplitudes.

Earth and Planetary Science Letters
William B. Frank
William B. Frank
Assistant Professor

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