The northern Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides) subduction zone (11°S to 14°S) has experienced large shallow thrust earthquakes with Mw > 7 in 1966 (MS 7.9, 7.3), 1980 (Mw 7.5, 7.7), 1997 (Mw 7.7), 2009 (Mw 7.7, 7.8, 7.4), and 2013 (Mw 8.0). We analyze seismic data from the latter four earthquake sequences to quantify the rupture processes of these large earthquakes. The 7 October 2009 earthquakes occurred in close spatial proximity over about 1 h in the same region as the July 1980 doublet. Both sequences activated widespread seismicity along the northern Vanuatu subduction zone. The focal mechanisms indicate interplate thrusting, but there are differences in waveforms that establish that the events are not exact repeats. With an epicenter near the 1980 and 2009 events, the 1997 earthquake appears to have been a shallow intraslab rupture below the megathrust, with strong southward directivity favoring a steeply dipping plane. Some triggered interplate thrusting events occurred as part of this sequence. The 1966 doublet ruptured north of the 1980 and 2009 events and also produced widespread aftershock activity. The 2013 earthquake rupture propagated southward from the northern corner of the trench with shallow slip that generated a substantial tsunami. The repeated occurrence of large earthquake doublets along the northern Vanuatu subduction zone is remarkable considering the doublets likely involved overlapping, yet different combinations of asperities. The frequent occurrence of large doublet events and rapid aftershock expansion in this region indicate the presence of small, irregularly spaced asperities along the plate interface.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science