Seismicity in the outer rise offshore southern Chile: indication of fluid effects in crust and mantle

Tilmann, F. J. and Grevemeyer, I. and Flueh, E. and Dahm, T. and Goßler, J. (2008) Seismicity in the outer rise offshore southern Chile: indication of fluid effects in crust and mantle. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 269 (1-2). pp. 41-55. ISSN 0012-821X DOI

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We examine the micro-earthquake seismicity recorded by two temporary arrays of ocean bottom seismometers on the outer rise offshore southern Chile on young oceanic plate of ages 14 Ma and 6 Ma, respectively. The arrays were in operation from December 2004–January 2005 and consisted of 17 instruments and 12 instruments, respectively. Approximately 10 locatable events per day were recorded by each of the arrays. The catalogue, which is complete for magnitudes above 1.2–1.5, is characterized by a high b value, i.e., a high ratio of small to large events, and the data set is remarkable in that a large proportion of the events form clusters whose members show a high degree of waveform similarity. The largest cluster thus identified consisted of 27 similar events (average inter-event correlation coefficient > 0.8 for a 9.5 s window), and waveform similarity persists far into the coda. Inter-event spacing is irregular, but very short waiting times of a few minutes are far more common than expected from a Poisson distribution. Seismicity with these features (high b value, large number of similar events with short waiting times) is typical of swarm activity, which, based on empirical evidence and theoretical considerations, is generally thought to be driven by fluid pressure variations. Because no pronounced outer rise bulge exists on the very young plate in the study region, it is unlikely that melt is accessible from decompression melting or opening of cracks. A fluid source related to processes at the nearby ridge is conceivable for the younger segment but less likely for the older one. We infer that the fluid source could be seawater, which enters through fractures in the crust. Most of the similar-earthquake clusters are within the crust, but some of them locate significantly below the Moho. If our interpretation is correct, this implies that water is present within the mantle. Hydration of the mantle is also indicated by a decrease of Pn velocities below the outer rise seen on a refraction profile through one of the arrays [Contreras-Reyes, E., Grevemeyer, I., Flueh, E.R., Scherwath, M., Heesemann, M., 2007. Alteration of the subducting oceanic lithosphere at the southern central Chile trench-outer rise. Geochem., Geophys. Geosyst. 8, Q07003.]. The deepest events within the array on the 6 Ma old plate occur where the temperature reaches 500–600 °C, consistent with the value observed for large intraplate earthquakes within the mantle (650 °C), suggesting that the maximum temperature at which these fluid-mediated micro-earthquakes can occur is similar or identical to that of large earthquakes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 08AREP IA55
Subjects: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Divisions: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Journal or Publication Title: Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume: 269
Page Range: pp. 41-55
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2009 13:03
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:08

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