Abstract

An unusual group of more than 100 earthquakes is located ∼600 km beneath the North Fiji Basin in the southwest Pacific Ocean. These earthquakes are attributed to seismicity within detached segments of the subducted Australian plate. One of these detached slab segments has collided with, and now impinges on, the subducted Pacific plate at a depth of ∼500 km. The region in the mantle where the two slab segments meet is also characterized by an unparalleled abundance of large-magnitude (Mw >7.0) earthquakes for this depth. The folded shape of the Pacific slab beneath Fiji, as well as the abundance of earthquakes, is interpreted to result from deformation and deformation-enhanced phase transformations as the two slabs collide and settle on the 660 km discontinuity. Detachment of the slab segments is interpreted to have occurred at ca. 5 Ma, but collision between the eastern segment and the west-dipping Pacific slab is interpreted to have occurred at ca. 4 Ma, coincident with initial opening of the overriding Lau Basin.

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