Abstract

Oceanic intraplate earthquakes are known to occur either on active ridge‐transform structures or by reactivation of their inactive counterparts, generally referred to as fossil ridges or transforms. The Indian Ocean, one of the most active oceanic intraplate regions, has generated large earthquakes associated with both these types of structures. The moderate earthquake that occurred on 21 May 2014 (Mw 6.1) in the northern Bay of Bengal followed an alternate mechanism, as it showed no clear association either with active or extinct ridge‐transform structures. Its focal depth of >50  km is uncommon but not improbable, given the ∼90  Ma age of the ocean floor with 12‐km‐thick overlying sediments. No tectonic features have been mapped in the near vicinity of its epicenter, the closest being the 85° E ridge, located ∼100  km to its west, hitherto regarded as seismically inactive. The few earthquakes that have occurred here in the past are clustered around its southern or northern limits, and a few are located midway, at around 10° N. The 2014 earthquake, sourced close to the northern cluster, seems to be associated with a northwest–southeast‐oriented fracture, located on the eastern flanks of the 85° E ridge. If this causal association is possible, we believe that reactivation of fossil hotspot trails could be considered as another mechanism for oceanic intraplate seismicity.

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