National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

Faulting and hydration of the Juan de Fuca plate system

Nedimović, M.R., D.R. Bohnenstiehl, S.M. Carbotte, J.P. Canales, and R.P. Dziak

Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 284(1–2), 94–102, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2009.04.013 (2009)

Multichannel seismic observations provide the first direct images of crustal scale normal faults within the Juan de Fuca plate system and indicate that brittle deformation extends up to ~ 200 km seaward of the Cascadia trench. Within the sedimentary layering steeply dipping faults are identified by stratigraphic offsets, with maximum throws of 110 ± 10 m found near the trench. Fault throws diminish both upsection and seaward from the trench. Long-term throw rates are estimated to be 13 ± 2 mm/kyr. Faulted offsets within the sedimentary layering are typically linked to larger offset scarps in the basement topography, suggesting reactivation of the normal fault systems formed at the spreading center. Imaged reflections within the gabbroic igneous crust indicate swallowing fault dips at depth. These reflections require local alteration to produce an impedance contrast, indicating that the imaged fault structures provide pathways for fluid transport and hydration. As the depth extent of imaged faulting within this young and sediment insulated oceanic plate is primarily limited to approximately Moho depths, fault-controlled hydration appears to be largely restricted to crustal levels. If dehydration embrittlement is an important mechanism for triggering intermediate-depth earthquakes within the subducting slab, then the limited occurrence rate and magnitude of intraslab seismicity at the Cascadia margin may in part be explained by the limited amount of water imbedded into the uppermost oceanic mantle prior to subduction. The distribution of submarine earthquakes within the Juan de Fuca plate system indicates that propagator wake areas are likely to be more faulted and therefore more hydrated than other parts of this plate system. However, being largely restricted to crustal levels, this localized increase in hydration generally does not appear to have a measurable effect on the intraslab seismicity along most of the subducted propagator wakes at the Cascadia margin.

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