The observed maximum magnitude of subduction megathrust earthquakes is highly variable worldwide. One key question is which conditions, if any, favor the occurrence of giant earthquakes (Mw ≥ 8.5). Here we carry out a multivariate statistical study in order to investigate the factors affecting the maximum magnitude of subduction megathrust earthquakes. We find that the trench-parallel extent of subduction zones and the thickness of trench sediments provide the largest discriminating capability between subduction zones that have experienced giant earthquakes and those having significantly lower maximum magnitude. Monte Carlo simulations show that the observed spatial distribution of giant earthquakes cannot be explained by pure chance to a statistically significant level. We suggest that the combination of a long subduction zone with thick trench sediments likely promotes a great lateral rupture propagation, characteristic of almost all giant earthquakes.
Tectonophysics – Elsevier
Published: Mar 20, 2018
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