Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Very low frequency earthquakes in between the seismogenic and tremor zones in Cascadia?

March 8, 2022

Megathrust earthquakes and their associated tsunamis cause some of the worst natural disasters. In addition to earthquakes, a wide range of slip behaviors are present at subduction zones, including slow earthquakes that span multiple orders of spatial and temporal scales. Understanding these events may shed light on the stress or strength conditions of the megathrust fault. Out of all types of slow earthquakes, very low frequency earthquakes (VLFEs) are most enigmatic because they are difficult to detect reliably, and the physical nature of VLFEs are poorly understood. Here we show three VLFEs in Cascadia that were dynamically triggered by a 2009 Mw 6.9 Canal de Ballenas earthquake in the Gulf of California. The VLFEs likely locate in between the seismogenic zone and the Cascadia episodic tremor and slip (ETS) zone, including one event with a moment magnitude of 5.7. This is the largest VLFE reported to date, causing clear geodetic signals. Our results show that the Cascadia megathrust fault might slip rapidly at some spots in this gap zone, and such a permissible slip behavior has direct seismic hazard implications for coastal communities and perhaps further inland. Further, the observed seismic sources may represent a new class of slip events, whose characteristics do not fit current understandings of slow or regular earthquakes.

Publication Year 2022
Title Very low frequency earthquakes in between the seismogenic and tremor zones in Cascadia?
DOI 10.1029/2021AV000607
Authors Wenyuan Fan, Andrew Barbour, Jeffrey McGuire, Yihe Huang, Guoqing Lin, Elizabeth S. Cochran, Ryo Okuwaki
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title AGU Advances
Index ID 70230099
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center