Detection of Deep Fluid Flow in Subduction Zones with Magnetotelluric Monitoring

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Jaime Araya and Oliver Ritter, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
After the 1995 Mw 8 Antofagasta earthquake, Husen and Kissling (2001) interpreted alterations observed in the seismic velocity structure as large-scale fluid distribution changes, deep within the subduction zone. Such large scale fluid relocation would cause similar modifications of the associated deep electrical resistivity structure. In this paper, we examine feasibility to detect such changes in the deep hydraulic system with magnetotelluric monitoring. Continuous magnetotelluric (MT) data have been recorded above the subduction zone in northern Chile as part of the Integrated Plate Boundary Observatory Chile (IPOC) with an array of 9 stations since 2007.

With the MT method, electrical resistivity and lateral changes of the resistivity structure are estimated from so called transfer functions (TF). If the subsurface resistivity structure is stable, these TFs vary only within their statistical significance intervals over time. Any statistically significant deviations, particularly when observed over the network of sites, must be originated from a change in the subsurface resistivity structure. We simulate the effects of such changes on the TFs using 3D forward modelling studies. The background model is based on 3D inversion of the IPOC MT stations. The results show that detectable differences in the TFs are obtained if the resistivity decreases by 5 times of its original value in the lower continental crust over the rupture zone. The implications of these results are compared with observed changes in the TFs after the 2007 Mw 7.7 Tocopilla and 2014 Mw 8.2 Pisagua earthquakes.