Abstract

Recent observations of an association between forearc basins and slip during subduction thrust earthquakes suggest a link between processes controlling upper plate structure and seismic coupling on the subduction-zone thrust fault. We present a mechanism for the formation of these basins where sedimentation occurs on landward-dipping segments of the subduction wedge, which itself is actively growing through the accretion of material from the subducting plate. Our numerical simulations demonstrate that sedimentation stabilizes the underlying wedge, preventing internal deformation beneath the basin. Maximum slip during great-thrust earthquakes tends to occur where sedimentary basins stabilize the overlaying wedge. The lack of deformation in these stable regions increases the likelihood of thermal pressurization of the subduction thrust, allows the fault to load faster, and allows greater healing of the fault between rupture events. These effects link deformation of the subduction wedge to the seismic coupling of the subduction thrust.

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