skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Seismotectonics of the Zagros (Iran) From Orogen‐Wide, Calibrated Earthquake Relocations

We use calibrated earthquake relocations to reassess the distribution and kinematics of faulting in the Zagros range, southwestern Iran. This is among the most seismically active fold‐and‐thrust belts globally, but knowledge of its active faulting is hampered by large errors in reported epicenters and controversy over earthquake depths. Mapped coseismic surface faulting is extremely rare, with most seismicity occurring on blind reverse faults buried beneath or within a thick, folded sedimentary cover. Therefore, the distribution of earthquakes provides vital information about the location of active faulting at depth. Using an advanced multievent relocation technique, we relocate ∼2,500 earthquakes across the Zagros mountains spanning the ∼70‐year instrumental record. Relocated events have epicentral uncertainties of 2–5 km; for ∼1,100 of them we also constrain origin time and focal depth, often to better than 5 km. Much of the apparently diffuse catalog seismicity now collapses into discrete trends highlighting major active faults. This reveals several zones of unmapped faulting, including possible conjugate left‐lateral faults in the central Zagros. It also confirms the activity of faults mapped previously on the basis of geomorphology, including oblique (dextral‐normal) faulting in the NW Zagros. We observe a primary difference between the Lurestan arc, where seismicity is focused close to the topographic range front, and the Fars arc, where out‐of‐sequence thrusting is evident over a width of ∼100–200 km. We establish a focal depth range of 4–25 km, confirming earlier suggestions that earthquakes are restricted to the upper crust but nucleate both within and beneath the sedimentary cover.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 9109-9129
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The 12 November 2017Mw 7.3 Ezgeleh‐Sarpolzahab earthquake is the largest instrumentally recorded earthquake in the Zagros Simply Folded Belt by a factor of ∼10 in seismic moment. Exploiting local, regional, and teleseismic data and synthetic aperture radar interferometry imagery, we characterize the rupture, its aftershock sequence, background seismicity, and regional tectonics. The mainshock ruptured slowly (∼2 km/s), unilaterally southward, for ∼40 km along an oblique (dextral‐thrust) fault that dips ∼14°E beneath the northwestern Lurestan arc. Slip is confined to basement depths of ∼12–18 km, resolvably beneath the sedimentary cover which is ∼8 km thick in this area. The gentle dip angle and basement location allow for a broad slip area, explaining the large magnitude relative to earthquakes in the main Fars arc of the Zagros, where shallower, steeper faults are limited in rupture extent by weak sedimentary layers. Early aftershocks concentrate around the southern and western edges of the mainshock slip area and therefore cluster in the direction of rupture propagation, implying a contribution from dynamic triggering. A cluster of events ∼100 km to the south near Mandali (Iraq) reactivated the ∼50° dipping Zagros Foredeep Fault. The basement fault responsible for the Ezgeleh‐Sarpolzahab earthquake probably accounts for the ∼1 km elevation contrast between the Lurestan arc and the Kirkuk embayment but is distinct from sections of the Mountain Front Fault that define frontal escarpments elsewhere in the Zagros. It may be related to a seismic interface underlying the central and southern Lurestan arc, and a key concern is whether or not the more extensive regional structure is also seismogenic.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Unusually deep earthquakes occur beneath rift segments with and without surface expressions of magmatism in the East African Rift system. The Tanganyika rift is part of the Western rift and has no surface evidence of magmatism. The TANG14 array was deployed in the southern Tanganyika rift, where earthquakes of magnitude up to 7.4 have occurred, to probe crust and upper mantle structure and evaluate fault kinematics. Four hundred seventy‐four earthquakes detected between June 2014 and September 2015 are located using a new regional velocity model. The precise locations, magnitudes, and source mechanisms of local and teleseismic earthquakes are used to determine seismogenic layer thickness, delineate active faults, evaluate regional extension direction, and evaluate kinematics of border faults. The active faults span more than 350 km with deep normal faults transecting the thick Bangweulu craton, indicating a wide plate boundary zone. The seismogenic layer thickness is 42 km, spanning the entire crust beneath the rift basins and their uplifted flanks. Earthquakes in the upper mantle are also detected. Deep earthquakes with steep nodal planes occur along subsurface projections of Tanganyika and Rukwa border faults, indicating that large offset (≥5 km) faults penetrate to the base of the crust, and are the current locus of strain. The focal mechanisms, continuous depth distribution, and correlation with mapped structures indicate that steep, deep border faults maintain a half‐graben morphology over at least 12 Myr of basin evolution. Fault scaling based on our results suggests that M > 7 earthquakes along Tanganyika border faults are possible.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Earthquakes near oceanic trenches are important for studying incoming plate bending and updip thrust zone seismogenesis, yet are poorly constrained using seismographs on land. We use an ocean bottom seismograph (OBS) deployment spanning both the incoming Pacific Plate and the forearc to study seismicity near the Mariana Trench. The yearlong deployment in 2012–2013 consisted of 20 broadband OBSs and 5 suspended hydrophones, with an additional 59 short period OBSs and hydrophones recording for 1 month. We locate 1,692 earthquakes using a nonlinear method with a 3D velocity model constructed from active source profiles and surface wave tomography results. Events occurring seaward of the trench occur to depths of ~35 km below the seafloor, and focal mechanisms of the larger events indicate normal faulting corresponding to plate bending. Significant seismicity emerges about 70 km seaward from the trench, and the seismicity rate increases continuously towards the trench, indicating that the largest bending deformation occurs near the trench axis. These plate‐bending earthquakes occur along faults that facilitate the hydration of the subducting plate, and the lateral and depth distribution of earthquakes is consistent with low‐velocity regions imaged in previous studies. The forearc is marked by a heterogeneous distribution of low magnitude (<5 Mw) thrust zone seismicity, possibly due to the rough incoming plate topography and/or serpentinization of the forearc. A sequence of thrust earthquakes occurs at depths ~10 km below seafloor and within 20 km of the trench axis, demonstrating that the megathrust is seismically active nearly to the trench.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The Raton Basin has been an area of injection induced seismicity for the past two decades. Previously, the reactivated fault zone structures and spatiotemporal response of seismicity to evolving injection have been poorly constrained due to sparse publicly available seismic monitoring. The application of a machine‐learning phase picker to 4 years of continuous seismic data from a local array enables the detection and location of ∼38,000 earthquakes. The events from 2016 to 2020 are ∼2.5–6 km below sea level and range from ML < −1 to 4.2. Most earthquakes occur within previously identified ∼N‐S zones of seismicity, however our new catalog illuminates that these zones are composed of many short faults with variable orientations. The two most active zones, the Vermejo Park and Tercio zones, are potentially linked by small intermediate faults. In total, we find ∼60 short (<3 km long) basement faults with strikes from WNW to NNE. Faulting mechanisms are predominantly normal but some variability, including reverse dip‐slip and oblique‐slip, is observed. The Trinidad fault zone, which previously hosted a Mw5.3 earthquake in 2011, is quiescent during 2016–2020, likely in response to both slow accumulation of tectonic strain after the 2011 sequence, and the significant decrease (80% reduction) in nearby wastewater injection from 2012 to 2016. Unlike some other regions, where induced seismicity was triggered in response to higher injection rates, the Raton Basin's frequency‐magnitude and spatiotemporal statistics are not distinguishable from tectonic seismicity. The similarity suggests that seismicity in the Raton Basin is predominantly releasing tectonic stress.

    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Geologic processes at convergent plate margins control geochemical cycling, seismicity, and deep biosphere activity in subduction zones and suprasubduction zone lithosphere. International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 366 was designed to address the nature of these processes in the shallow to intermediate depth of the Mariana subduction channel. Although no technology is available to permit direct sampling of the subduction channel of an intraoceanic convergent margin at depths up to 18 km, the Mariana forearc region (between the trench and the active volcanic arc) provides a means to access this zone. Active conduits, resulting from fractures in the forearc, are prompted by along- and across-strike extension that allows slab-derived fluids and materials to ascend to the seafloor along associated faults, resulting in the formation of serpentinite mud volcanoes. Serpentinite mud volcanoes of the Mariana forearc are the largest mud volcanoes on Earth. Their positions adjacent to or atop fault scarps on the forearc are likely related to the regional extension and vertical tectonic deformation in the forearc. Serpentinite mudflows at these volcanoes include serpentinized forearc mantle clasts, crustal and subducted Pacific plate materials, a matrix of serpentinite muds, and deep-sourced formation fluid. Mud volcanism on the Mariana forearc occurs within 100 km of the trench, representing a range of depths and temperatures to the downgoing plate and the subduction channel. These processes have likely been active for tens of millions of years at this site and for billions of years on Earth. At least 10 active serpentinite mud volcanoes have been located in the Mariana forearc. Two of these mud volcanoes are Conical and South Chamorro Seamounts, which are the furthest from the Mariana Trench at 86 and 78 km, respectively. Both seamounts were cored during Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Legs 125 and 195, respectively. Data from these two seamounts represent deeper, warmer examples of the continuum of slab-derived materials as the Pacific plate subducts, providing a snapshot of how slab subduction affects fluid release, the composition of ascending fluids, mantle hydration, and the metamorphic paragenesis of subducted oceanic lithosphere. Data from the study of these two mud volcanoes constrain the pressure, temperature, and composition of fluids and materials within the subduction channel at depths of about 18 to 19 km. Understanding such processes is necessary for elucidating factors that control seismicity in convergent margins, tectonic and magma genesis processes in the forearc and volcanic arc, fluid and material fluxes, and the nature and variability of environmental conditions that impact subseafloor microbial communities. Expedition 366 centered on data collection from cores recovered from three serpentinite mud volcanoes that define a continuum of subduction-channel processes defined by the two previously cored serpentinite mud volcanoes and the trench. Three serpentinite mud volcanoes (Yinazao, Fantangisña, and Asùt Tesoro) were chosen at distances 55 to 72 km from the Mariana Trench. Cores were recovered from active sites of eruption on their summit regions and on the flanks where ancient flows are overlain by more recent ones. Recovered materials show the effects of dynamic processes that are active at these sites, bringing a range of materials to the seafloor, including materials from the lithosphere of the Pacific plate and from subducted seamounts (including corals). Most of the recovered material consists of serpentinite mud containing lithic clasts, which are derived from the underlying forearc crust and mantle and the subducting Pacific plate. Cores from each of the three seamounts drilled during Expedition 366, as well as those from Legs 125 and 195, include material from the underlying Pacific plate. A thin cover of pelagic sediment was recovered at many Expedition 366 sites, and at Site U1498 we cored through serpentinite flows to the underlying pelagic sediment and volcanic ash deposits. Recovered serpentinites are largely uniform in major element composition, with serpentinized ultramafic rocks and serpentinite muds spanning a limited range in SiO2 , MgO, and Fe2 O3 compositions. However, variation in trace element composition reflects pore fluid composition, which differs as a function of the temperature and pressure of the underlying subduction channel. Dissolved gases H2 , CH4 , and C2 H6 are highest at the site furthest from the trench, which also has the most active fluid discharge of the Expedition 366 serpentinite mud volcanoes. These dissolved gases and their active discharge from depth likely support active microbial communities, which were the focus of in-depth subsampling and preservation for shore-based analytical and culturing procedures. The effects of fluid discharge were also registered in the porosity and GRA density data indicated by higher than expected values at some of the summit sites. These higher values are consistent with overpressured fluids that minimize compaction of serpentinite mud deposits. In contrast, flank sites have significantly greater decreases in porosity with depth, suggesting that processes in addition to compaction are required to achieve the observed data. Thermal measurements reveal higher heat flow values on the flanks (~31 mW/m2) than on the summits (~17 mW/m2) of the seamounts. The new 2G Enterprises superconducting rock magnetometer (liquid helium free) revealed relatively high values of both magnetization and bulk magnetic susceptibility of discrete samples related to ultramafic rocks, particularly in dunite. Magnetite, a product of serpentinization, and authigenic carbonates were observed in the mudflow matrix materials. In addition to coring operations, Expedition 366 focused on the deployment and remediation of borehole casings for future observatories and set the framework for in situ experimentation. Borehole work commenced at South Chamorro Seamount, where the original-style CORK was partially removed. Work then continued at each of the three summit sites following coring operations. Cased boreholes with at least three joints of screened casing were deployed, and a plug of cement was placed at the bottom of each hole. Water samples were collected from two of the three boreholes, revealing significant inputs of formation fluids. This suggests that each of the boreholes tapped a hydrologic zone, making these boreholes suitable for experimentation with the future deployment of a CORK-lite. An active education and outreach program connected with many classrooms on shore and with the general public through social media. 
    more » « less