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Subducted oceanic relief locks the shallow megathrust in central Ecuador

Abstract : Whether subducted oceanic reliefs such as seamounts promote seismic rupture or aseismic slip remains controversial. Here we use swath bathymetry, prestack depth-migrated multichannel seismic reflection lines, and wide-angle seismic data collected across the central Ecuador subduction segment to reveal a broad ~55 km × 50 km, ~1.5–2.0 km high, low height-to-width ratio, multipeaked, sediment-bare, shallow subducted oceanic relief. Owing to La Plata Island and the coastline being located, respectively, ~35 km and ~50–60 km from the trench, GPS measurements allow us to demonstrate that the subducted oceanic relief spatially correlates to a shallow, ~80 km × 55 km locked interplate asperity within a dominantly creeping subduction segment. The oceanic relief geometrical anomaly together with its highly jagged topography, the absence of a subduction channel, and a stiff erosive oceanic margin are found to be long-term geological characteristics associated with the shallow locking of the megathrust. Although the size and level of locking observed at the subducted relief scale could produce an Mw >7+ event, no large earthquakes are known to have happened for several centuries. On the contrary, frequent slow slip events have been recorded since 2010 within the locked patch, and regular seismic swarms have occurred in this area during the last 40 years. These transient processes, together with the rough subducted oceanic topography, suggest that interplate friction might actually be heterogeneous within the locked patch. Additionally, we find that the subducted relief undergoes internal shearing and produces a permanent flexural bulge of the margin, which uplifted La Plata Island.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - 5:23:21 PM
Last modification on : Monday, December 14, 2020 - 9:47:18 AM

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Jean-Yves Collot, Eddy Sanclemente, Jean-Mathieu Nocquet, Angélique Leprêtre, Alessandra Ribodetti, et al.. Subducted oceanic relief locks the shallow megathrust in central Ecuador. Journal of Geophysical Research : Solid Earth, American Geophysical Union, 2017, 122 (5), pp.3286 - 3305. ⟨10.1002/2016JB013849⟩. ⟨hal-01734549⟩



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