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Theses Year : 2018

Subduction interface roughness and megathrust earthquakes : Insights from natural data and analogue models

Rugosité de l’interface sismogène et mégaséismes de subduction : observation statistique de cas naturels et modélisations analogique


Most mega-earthquakes (i.e. earthquakes with Mw ≥ 8.5) occur along subduction mega-thrusts, the interfaces between the subducting - and the overriding plates in convergent margins. These events may have catastrophic impact on human societies due to their destructive potential. For this reason being able to predict the timing and size of these earthquakes became one goal of the international scientific community. The subduction seismic cycle is influenced by many different parameters. The interplay between these parameters governing the frequency and size of megathrust earthquakes still remains unclear, mainly due to the short (i.e. limited to the last century) seismic record.The seismogenic part of the subduction thrust fault spans between depths of 11±4 and ± 51 km (Heuret et al. 2011). In this zone a combination of temperature, pressure and rocks characteristics creates conditions favourable for seismic behaviour. Whether a specific area in the subduction thrust fault has the ability to trigger mega-earthquakes can be expressed using the degree of seismic coupling, i.e. the amount of slip that occurs with respect to the total amount of plate convergence (e.g. Scholz 1998; Scholz & Campos 2012). When a fault is fully coupled, all of the fault slip occurs during earthquakes instead of also during aseismic behaviour (e.g. slow slip events). The internal structure of the interplate fault zone mainly determines whether an area within a subduction zone behaves seismic or aseismic (Wang & Bilek 2011). This is influenced by the topography of the plate interface (e.g. subducting seamounts; Wang & Bilek 2014), but also subducted sediments and fluids in the subduction channel may play an important role.The main goal of this project is to understand which parameters affect the behaviour of mega-earthquake ruptures. This will be done by comparing natural data (e.g. seafloor roughness, sediment thickness and fluid content in the subduction channel) to rupture characteristics of major recent earthquakes. With this analysis also more knowledge can be gained on the triggering of slow earthquakes instead of mega-earthquakes. These are slow slip events with lower frequencies and longer durations than ‘regular’ earthquakes (Saffer & Wallace 2015).The database of natural data, implemented by the long-term scientific joint venture between the Univ. Montpellier and the LET (Roma Tre) will be used for the analysis. Ongoing work is done on determining a method for estimating the seafloor roughness, i.e. the distribution of high, low and smooth areas (by Michel Peyret in collaboration with Serge Lallemand, Univ. Montpellier). Also data is available on the trench sediment thickness around the world (Heuret et al. 2011). In the frame of this project, information on the roughness of the seafloor will be added to the database. In addition the rupture characteristics of major recent earthquakes will be collected. By performing a multiparametric statistical analysis of the database, a conceptual model will be realized, exploring the possible link between all the different parameters. The aim is to validate this model in the lab using scaled 3D analogue models. This will be done both at the LET and at Univ. Montpellier by using a broad range of geometries and contact materials with different rheologies (e.g. gelatin, foam rubber and a new analogue material; Caniven et al. 2015; Corbi et al. 2013). This jointed experimental approach with both the Univ. Montpellier and the LET involved creates a rich environment where differences and similarities of the two different approaches can be used to validate the results.
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tel-01954639 , version 1 (13-12-2018)


  • HAL Id : tel-01954639 , version 1


Elenora van Rijsingen. Subduction interface roughness and megathrust earthquakes : Insights from natural data and analogue models. Tectonics. Université Montpellier; Università degli studi Roma Tre, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018MONTG033⟩. ⟨tel-01954639⟩
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