Imaging along-strike variations in mechanical properties of the Gofar transform fault, East Pacific Rise

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Froment, B.
McGuire, Jeffrey J.
van der Hilst, R. D.
Gouedard, P.
Roland, Emily C.
Zhang, H.
Collins, John A.
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Mid-ocean ridge transform fault
Fault zone
Double-difference tomography
A large part of global plate motion on mid-ocean ridge transform faults (RTFs) is not accommodated as major earthquakes. When large earthquakes do occur, they often repeat quasiperiodically. We focus here on the high slip rate (∼14 cm/yr) Gofar transform fault on the equatorial East Pacific Rise. This fault is subdivided into patches that slip during Mw 5.5–6 earthquakes every 5 to 6 years. These patches are separated by rupture barriers that accommodate slip through swarms of smaller events and/or aseismic creep. We performed an imaging study to investigate which spatiotemporal variations of the fault zone properties control this segmentation in mechanical behavior and could explain the specific behavior of RTFs at the global scale. We adopt a double-difference approach in a joint inversion of active air gun shots and microseismicity recorded for 1 year. This data set includes the 2008 Mw 6 Gofar earthquake. The along-strike P wave velocity structure reveals an abrupt transition between the barrier area, characterized by a damaged fault zone of 10–20% reduced Vp and a nearly intact fault zone in the asperity area. The importance of the strength of the damage zone on the mechanical behavior is supported by the temporal S wave velocity changes which suggest increased damage within the barrier area, during the week preceding the Mw 6 earthquake. Our results support the conclusion that extended highly damaged zones are the key factor in limiting the role of major earthquakes to accommodate plate motion along RTFs.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2014. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 119 (2014): 7175–7194, doi:10.1002/2014JB011270.
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 119 (2014): 7175–7194
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