The intermediate-depth Tonga double-seismic zone and relationship to slab thermal structure

Thursday, 17 December 2015: 09:30
306 (Moscone South)
Songqiao Shawn Wei1, Douglas Wiens1, Aubreya Nicole Adams2 and Chen Cai1, (1)Washington University in St Louis, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, St. Louis, MO, United States, (2)Colgate University, Department of Geology, Hamilton, NY, United States
We used data from the ocean bottom seismographs and island-based stations deployed in the Tonga-Fiji area from 2009 to 2010 to investigate the seismicity of the Tonga subducting slab. We relocated 785 events from the Reviewed ISC Bulletin with local array data, 379 newly detected intermediate-depth events, as well as 1976-2012 events with Global Centroid-Moment-Tensor (CMT) solutions. The events were relocated with both local and teleseismic P, pP, and S arrivals using a hypocentroidal decomposition relative location algorithm. The results show a double-seismic zone (DSZ) with a separation of about 30 km along the Tonga slab within a depth range of about 70 – 300 km. The upper plane is more seismically active and characterized by downdip compressional stress whereas the lower plane is characterized by downdip tensional stress, consistent with the slab unbending model. Accordingly, focal mechanisms of the earthquakes along the surface of the slab show downdip extension above the depth of 80 km, but turn to compression below it, coinciding with the change of the slab dip angle from 30˚ to 60˚ at the same depth. The lower limit of the DSZ beneath Tonga is significantly deeper than that in Japan and Mariana (about 200 km), implying the importance of thermal variations in controlling the DSZ. Since the Tonga slab, with the fastest subduction rate, is cooler than other slabs, thermally controlled processes such as dehydration embrittlement can occur at greater depths, resulting in a deeper depth extent of the DSZ.