Abstract

Earthquake hypocenters within the subducting Juan de Fuca plate beneath Washington and northern Oregon are interpreted as showing that the direction of plate dip changes from northeast beneath the Puget Sound region to east-southeast beneath southwestern Washington. The shallowest hypocenters within the Juan de Fuca plate are between 30- to 40-km depth, and the distribution of these events strikes north-northeast from near the mouth of the Columbia River to the northern Olympic Mountains. The distribution of hypocenters between 40 to 50 km generally strikes parallel with the shallowest events, but shows a significant broadening beneath the eastern Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. Events with depths greater than 50 km south of the 1965 Seattle earthquake (mb = 6.5) strike north-northeast, approximately parallel with the shallower distributions; however, north of this event, the distribution of these deeper hypocenters strikes northwest. This change in the distribution of earthquake hypocenters reflects an upward arching of the Juan de Fuca plate plate beneath Puget Sound compared with the depth of the plate beneath southwestern Washington. The T axis calculated for the 1949 South Puget Sound earthquake (MS = 7.1) is oriented to the southeast, and the 20° plunge of the T axis is in good agreement with the plate dip angle determined from the earthquake hypocenters. We conclude that the 1949 earthquake resulted at least in part from down-dip tensional forces within the subducting Juan de Fuca plate. One consequence of the change in the direction of plate dip is that volcanic front in Washington is everywhere perpendicular to the dip of the Juan de Fuca plate.

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