ABSTRACT

Oceanic plate seismicity is generally dominated by normal and strike‐slip faulting associated with active spreading ridges and transform faults. Fossil structural fabrics inherited from spreading ridges also host earthquakes. The Indian Oceanic plate, considered quite active seismically, has hosted earthquakes both on its active and fossil fault systems. The 4 December 2015 Mw 7.1 normal‐faulting earthquake, located 700  km south of the southeast Indian ridge in the southern Indian Ocean, is a rarity due to its location away from the ridge, lack of association with any mapped faults and its focal depth close to the 800°C isotherm. We present results of teleseismic body‐wave inversion that suggest that the earthquake occurred on a north‐northwest–south‐southeast‐striking normal fault at a depth of 34 km. The rupture propagated at 2.7  km/s with compact slip over an area of 48×48  km2 around the hypocenter. Our analysis of the background tectonics suggests that our chosen fault plane is in the same direction as the mapped normal faults on the eastern flanks of the Kerguelen plateau. We propose that these buried normal faults, possibly the relics of the ancient rifting might have been reactivated, leading to the 2015 midplate earthquake.

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