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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access June 28, 2019

Plate Coupling Mechanism of the Central Andes Subduction: Insight from Gravity Model

  • Rezene Mahatsente EMAIL logo


The Central Andes experienced major earthquake (Mw =8.2) in April 2014 in a region where the giant 1877 earthquake (Mw=8.8) occurred. The 2014 Iquique earthquake did not break the entire seismic gap zones as previously predicted. Geodetic and seismological observations indicate a highly coupled plate interface. To assess the locking mechanism of plate interfaces beneath Central Andes, a 2.5-D gravity model of the crust and upper mantle structure of the central segment of the subduction zone was developed based on terrestrial and satellite gravity data from the LAGEOS, GRACE and GOCE satellite missions. The densities and major structures of the gravity model are constrained by velocity models from receiver function and seismic tomography.

The gravity model defined details of crustal and slab structure necessary to understand the cause of megathrust asperity generation. The densities of the upper and lower crust in the fore-arc (2970 – 3000 kg m−3) are much higher than the average density of continental crust. The high density bodies are interpreted as plutonic or ophiolitic structures emplaced onto continental crust. The plutonic or ophiolitic structures may be exerting pressure on the Nazca slab and lock the plate interfaces beneath the Central Andes subduction zone. Thus, normal pressure exerted by high density fore-arc structures and buoyancy force may control plate coupling in the Central Andes. However, this interpretation does not exclude other possible factors controlling plate coupling in the Central Andes. Seafloor roughness and variations in pore-fluid pressure in sediments along subduction channel can affect plate coupling and asperity generation.


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Received: 2018-11-07
Accepted: 2019-01-25
Published Online: 2019-06-28

© 2019 Rezene Mahatsente, published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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