Abstract

We investigated the temporal variation of the mechanism of large intraplate earthquakes at intermediate depths in relation to the occurrence of large under-thrusting earthquakes in Chile. Focal mechanisms were determined for three large events (1 March 1934: M = 7.1, d = 120 km; 20 April 1949: M = 7.3, d = 70 km; and 8 May 1971: MW = 7.2, d = 150 km) which occurred down-dip of the great 1960 Chilean earthquake (MW = 9.5) rupture zone. The 1971 event is down-dip compressional: θ (strike) = 12°, δ (dip) = 80°, and λ (rake) = 100°. The 1949 earthquake focal mechanisms is θ = 350°, δ = 70°, and λ = −130°. The data available for the 1934 event are consistent with a down-dip tensional mechanism. Thus, the two events which occurred prior to the great 1960 Chilean earthquake are down-dip tensional. Published fault plane solutions of large intermediate-depth earthquakes (28 March 1965 and 7 November 1981) which occurred down-dip of the Valparaiso earthquakes of 1971 (MW = 7.8) and 1985 (MW = 8.0) are also down-dip tensional. These results suggest that before a major thrust earthquake, the interplate boundary is strongly coupled, and the subducted slab is under tension at intermediate depths; after the occurrence of an interplate thrust event, the displacement on the thrust boundary induces transient compressional stress at intermediate depth in the down-going slab. This interpretation is consistent with the hypothesis that temporal variations of focal mechanisms of outer-rise events are due to changes of interplate coupling.

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