In the 1970s, the Shumagin Islands region of the Alaska subduction zone was identified as a seismic gap expected to host a future great [moment magnitude (Mw) ≥8.0] earthquake. More recent geodetic data indicate that this region is weakly coupled, and the geologic record shows little evidence of past large events. From July to October 2020, a series of earthquakes occurred in this region, raising the possibility of greater coupling. The initial Mw 7.8 thrust faulting earthquake straddled the eastern edge of the Shumagin Gap and was followed by an Mw 7.6 strike-slip earthquake within the Shumagin Gap. Stress modeling indicates that this strike-slip earthquake is in fact favored if the Shumagin Gap has low coupling, whereas a highly coupled Shumagin Gap inhibits that type and location of earthquake. The initial thrust earthquake and its afterslip enhanced the strike-slip loading within the subducting slab, helping to trigger the October event.
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