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  1. Abstract

    Flexure occurs on intermediate geologic timescales (∼1 Myr) due to volcanic‐island building at the Island of Hawaii, and the deformational response of the lithosphere is simultaneously elastic, plastic, and ductile. At shallow depths and low temperatures, elastic deformation transitions to frictional failure on faults where stresses exceed a threshold value, and this complex rheology controls the rate of deformation manifested by earthquakes. In this study, we estimate the seismic strain rate based on earthquakes recorded between 1960 and 2019 at Hawaii, and the estimated strain rate with 10−18–10−15s−1in magnitude exhibits a local minimum or neutral bending plane at 15 km depth within the lithosphere. In comparison, flexure and internal deformation of the lithosphere are modeled in 3D viscoelastic loading models where deformation at shallow depths is accommodated by frictional sliding on faults and limited by the frictional coefficient (μf), and at larger depths by low‐temperature plasticity and high‐temperature creep. Observations of flexure and the seismic strain rate are best‐reproduced by models withμf = 0.3 ± 0.1 and modified laboratory‐derived low‐temperature plasticity. Results also suggest strong lateral variations in the frictional strength of faults beneath Hawaii. Our models predict a radial pattern of compressive stress axes relative to central Hawaii consistent with observations of earthquake pressure (P) axes. We demonstrate that the dip angle of this radial axis is essential to discerning a change in the curvature of flexure, and therefore has implications for constraining lateral variations in lithospheric strength.

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