Interseismic Lithospheric Response of the Southern End of the Cascadia Subduction Zone Following the 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquake

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jessica Vermeer and Mark Allen Hemphill-Haley, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, United States
The Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) in the Pacific Northwest where the pacific plate is subducting beneath the North American plate may be capable of producing M 9 earthquakes. At its southern end, the CSZ terminates at the Mendocino triple junction in northern California, a region of frequent seismic activity. The 1992 M 7.1 Cape Mendocino earthquake caused up to 1.4 m of measured coseismic deformation and it is thought to have been rupture of the southern end of the CSZ. I will present static GPS monument relocation data and the positions of intertidal organisms to measure the interseismic crustal deformation in the 22 years since the 1992 event. This evidence for post- and interseismic lithospheric response may show whether the earthquake was due to rupture of the southern end of the CSZ or a subsidiary fault. Because the megathrust has higher strain rates than subsidiary faults, we expect that significant interseismic deformation should have occurred if the 1992 earthquake was on the subduction zone interface. It will also provide an estimate of whether post-seismic recovery has been occurring since that event. Although the coseismic deformation was well documented via leveling and Vertical Extent of Mortality (VEM) of sessile intertidal organisms, no post seismic work had been done to measure the interseismic deformation. This study utilizes high resolution GPS observation of established benchmarks compared with the leveling from 1992 to measure the vertical change. It also compares elevation of specific intertidal organism colonies to the elevation of living organisms following the 1992 uplift as a proxy for relative sea level change. Quantifying the interseismic deformation allows us to better understand the source of the earthquake and how the upper plate is responding to strain accumulation along the subduction zone. Significant interseismic deformation would indicate that the fault may be reloading quickly and the earthquake was likely associated with rupture of the megathrust, which has much higher strain rates than subsidiary faults. This, in turn, may suggest segmentation of the southern CSZ. Little interseismic deformation might indicate the 1992 earthquake occurred on a subsidiary fault and not the megathrust itself. Preliminary results indicate that there has been little interseismic deformation.