Continuing Megathrust Earthquake Potential in northern Chile after the 2014 Iquique Earthquake Sequence

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:45 PM
Gavin P Hayes1, Matthew W Herman2, William D Barnhart1, Kevin P Furlong2, Sebastian Riquelme3, Harley Benz1, Eric Bergman4, Sergio E Barrientos3, Paul S Earle1 and Sergey V Samsonov5, (1)USGS National Earthquake Information Center Golden, Golden, CO, United States, (2)Penn State Univ, University Park, PA, United States, (3)University of Chile, Santiago, Chile, (4)Global Seismological Services, Golden, CO, United States, (5)Canada Center for Remote Sensing, Ottawa, ON, Canada
The seismic gap theory, which identifies regions of elevated hazard based on a lack of recent seismicity in comparison to other portions of a fault, has successfully explained past earthquakes and is useful for qualitatively describing where future large earthquakes might occur. A large earthquake had been expected in the subduction zone adjacent to northern Chile, which until recently had not ruptured in a megathrust earthquake since a M~8.8 event in 1877. On April 1 2014, a M 8.2 earthquake occurred within this northern Chile seismic gap, offshore of the city of Iquique; the size and spatial extent of the rupture indicate it was not the earthquake that had been anticipated.

Here, we present a rapid assessment of the seismotectonics of the March-April 2014 seismic sequence offshore northern Chile, including analyses of earthquake (fore- and aftershock) relocations, moment tensors, finite fault models, moment deficit calculations, and cumulative Coulomb stress transfer calculations over the duration of the sequence. This ensemble of information allows us to place the current sequence within the context of historic seismicity in the region, and to assess areas of remaining and/or elevated hazard. Our results indicate that while accumulated strain has been released for a portion of the northern Chile seismic gap, significant sections have not ruptured in almost 150 years. These observations suggest that large-to-great sized megathrust earthquakes will occur north and south of the 2014 Iquique sequence sooner than might be expected had the 2014 events ruptured the entire seismic gap.