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Global variations of large megathrust earthquake rupture characteristics

Ye, Lingling and Kanamori­, Hiroo and Lay, Thorne (2018) Global variations of large megathrust earthquake rupture characteristics. Science Advances, 4 (3). Art. No. eaao4915. ISSN 2375-2548. PMCID PMC5943052. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aao4915.

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Despite the surge of great earthquakes along subduction zones over the last decade and advances in observations and analysis techniques, it remains unclear whether earthquake complexity is primarily controlled by persistent fault properties or by dynamics of the failure process. We introduce the radiated energy enhancement factor (REEF), given by the ratio of an event’s directly measured radiated energy to the calculated minimum radiated energy for a source with the same seismic moment and duration, to quantify the rupture complexity. The REEF measurements for 119 large [moment magnitude (M_w) 7.0 to 9.2] megathrust earthquakes distributed globally show marked systematic regional patterns, suggesting that the rupture complexity is strongly influenced by persistent geological factors. We characterize this as the existence of smooth and rough rupture patches with varying interpatch separation, along with failure dynamics producing triggering interactions that augment the regional influences on large events. We present an improved asperity scenario incorporating both effects and categorize global subduction zones and great earthquakes based on their REEF values and slip patterns. Giant earthquakes rupturing over several hundred kilometers can occur in regions with low-REEF patches and small interpatch spacing, such as for the 1960 Chile, 1964 Alaska, and 2011 Tohoku earthquakes, or in regions with high-REEF patches and large interpatch spacing as in the case for the 2004 Sumatra and 1906 Ecuador-Colombia earthquakes. Thus, combining seismic magnitude M_w and REEF, we provide a quantitative framework to better represent the span of rupture characteristics of great earthquakes and to understand global seismicity.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Materials CentralArticle
Ye, Lingling0000-0002-8739-2072
Kanamori­, Hiroo0000-0001-8219-9428
Lay, Thorne0000-0003-2360-4213
Additional Information:© 2018 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC). Received for publication July 26, 2017. Accepted for publication February 8, 2018. We thank J. P. Avouac, N. Lapusta, L. Rivera, R. Bürgmann, S. Ide, T. Hanks, several anonymous reviewers, and the editor G. Beroza for constructive suggestions and comments on this work. Funding: This study was supported by a National Natural Science Foundation of China grant (no. 41590893) and the joint program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. L1624024) to L.Y. and an NSF grant to T.L. (no. EAR1245717). Author contributions: L.Y. and H.K. conceived the normalization by a reference energy model. L.Y., H.K., and T.L. conducted the analysis and wrote the paper collectively. The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: Source parameters of seismic moment, rupture duration, radiated energy, and stress drop for each earthquake are from the study of Ye et al. (21), available from the online website All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the authors.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Natural Science Foundation of China41590893
Chinese Academy of SciencesUNSPECIFIED
National Natural Science Foundation of ChinaL1624024
Issue or Number:3
PubMed Central ID:PMC5943052
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180326-131742606
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Global variations of large megathrust earthquake rupture characteristics BY LINGLING YE, HIROO KANAMORI, THORNE LAY Science Advances 21 Mar 2018: Vol. 4, no. 3, eaao4915 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao4915
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:85434
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:26 Mar 2018 21:15
Last Modified:11 Mar 2022 19:52

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