Geometrical effects of a subducted seamount on stopping megathrust ruptures Academic Article uri icon


  • We have numerically simulated dynamic ruptures along a “slip-weakening” megathrust fault with a subducted seamount of realistic geometry, demonstrating that seamounts can act as a barrier to earthquake ruptures. Such barrier effect is calculated to be stronger for increased seamount normal stress relative to the ambient level, for larger seamount height-to-width ratio, and for shorter seamount-to-nucleation distance. As the seamount height increases from 0 to 40% of its basal width, the required increase in the effective normal stress on the seamount to stop ruptures drops by as much as ~20%. We further demonstrate that when a seamount is subducted adjacent to the earthquake nucleation zone, coseismic ruptures can be stopped even if the seamount has a lower effective normal stress than the ambient level. These results indicate that subducted seamounts may stop earthquake ruptures for a wide range of seamount normal stress conditions, including the case of the thrust fault being lubricated by seamount-top fluid-rich sediments, as suggested from observations in the Japan and Sunda Trenches.

publication date

  • May 28, 2013