Abstract

Earthquakes and geodetic evidence reveal the presence of a low-angle, mid-crustal detachment fault beneath the Finisterre Range that connects to a steep ramp surfacing near the Ramu-Markham Valley of Papua New Guinea. Waveforms of three large (Mw 6.3 to 6.9) thrust earthquakes that occurred in October 1993 beneath the Finisterre Range 10 to 30 km north of the valley reveal 15° north-dipping thrusts at about 20 km depth. Global Positioning System measurements show up to 20 cm of coseismic slip occurred across the valley, requiring that the active fault extend to within a few hundred meters of the Earth's surface beneath the Markham Valley. Together, these data imply that a gently north-dipping thrust fault in the middle or lower crust beneath the Finisterre Range steepens and shallows southward, forming a ramp fault beneath the north side of the Markham Valley. Waveforms indicate that both the ramp and detachment fault were active during at least one of the earthquakes. While the seismic potential of mid-crustal detachments elsewhere is debated, in Papua New Guinea the detachment fault shows the capability of producing large earthquakes.

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