abstract

This paper reports results of a series of short-term seismic observations made on nearly all the major island groups of the Tonga island arc. These data extend the mapping of anomalous propagation of seismic waves from earthquakes beneath the island arc reported by Oliver and Isacks (1967), and significantly increase the number of accurately located earthquakes beneath the Tonga Islands.

The data of this paper, combined with those of Sykes et al (1969), indicate that the inclined seismic zone of the Tonga island arc is very thin even at shallow depths. Most of the hypocenters are confined to a slab of about 25 km thickness. This thickness probably still reflects the precision of locations and may only be a measure of the upper limit of the thickness of the seismic zone. The inclined seismic zone, which has a dip of about 45° at intermediate depths in the mantle, appears to decrease in dip or bend over at depths less than about 50 km and appears to intersect the surface at or near the axis of the trench. The wedge-shaped region above the inclined seismic zone appears to be relatively aseismic, although some minor seismic activity has been located at shallow depths beneath the line of active volcanoes.

P and S phases with anomalously large amplitudes and frequencies from deep earthquakes (> 400 km) were observed at all sites occupied in Tonga, including sites on two volcanoes. These observations and observations from shallower events include ray paths that emerge nearly vertically beneath the volcanoes. Thus, any region of high attenuation (low Q) below the volcanoes, such as magma chambers, must be limited in extent. These data, in conjunction with regional observations of Sn, indicate that a broad zone of low Q material in the uppermost mantle exists west of the volcanoes on the concave side of the arc. However, the P and S phases recorded on the volcanic ridge exhibit an emergent and drawn-out character that contrasts with the sharp and impulsive character of phases recorded on the non-volcanic ridge. These observations are interpreted to indicate considerable heterogeneity beneath the volcanoes.

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