A strength inversion origin for non-volcanic tremor

Vannucchi, Paola; Clarke, Alexander; de Montserrat, Albert; Ougier-Simonin, Audrey; Aldega, Luca; Morgan, Jason P.. 2022 A strength inversion origin for non-volcanic tremor. Nature Communications, 13 (1), 2311.

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Non-volcanic tremor is a particularly enigmatic form of seismic activity. In its most studied subduction zone setting, tremor typically occurs within the plate interface at or near the shallow and deep edges of the interseismically locked zone. Detailed seismic observations have shown that tremor is composed of repeating small low-frequency earthquakes, often accompanied by very-low-frequency earthquakes, all involving shear failure and slip. However, low-frequency earthquakes and very-low-frequency earthquakes within each cluster show nearly constant source durations for all observed magnitudes, which implies characteristic tremor sub-event sources of near-constant size. Here we integrate geological observations and geomechanical lab measurements on heterogeneous rock assemblages representative of the shallow tremor region offshore the Middle America Trench with numerical simulations to demonstrate that these tremor events are consistent with the seismic failure of relatively weaker blocks within a stronger matrix. In these subducting rocks, hydrothermalism has led to a strength-inversion from a weak matrix with relatively stronger blocks to a stronger matrix with embedded relatively weaker blocks. Tremor naturally occurs as the now-weaker blocks fail seismically while their surrounding matrix has not yet reached a state of general seismic failure.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2041-1723
Date made live: 06 May 2022 08:55 +0 (UTC)

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