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Physical Mechanisms for Vertical-CLVD Earthquakes at Active Volcanoes

Shuler, Ashley Elizabeth; Ekström, Göran; Nettles, Meredith K.

Many volcanic earthquakes large enough to be detected globally have anomalous focal mechanisms and frequency content. In a previous study, we examined the relationship between active volcanism and the occurrence of a specific type of shallow, non-double-couple earthquake. We identified 101 earthquakes with vertical compensated-linear-vector-dipole (vertical-CLVD) focal mechanisms that took place near active volcanoes between 1976 and 2009. The majority of these earthquakes, which have magnitudes 4.3 less than or equal to MW less than or equal to 5.8, are associated with documented episodes of volcanic unrest. Here we further characterize vertical-CLVD earthquakes and explore possible physical mechanisms. Through teleseismic body-wave analysis and examination of the frequency content of vertical-CLVD earthquakes, we demonstrate that these events have longer source durations than tectonic earthquakes of similar magnitude. We examine the covariance matrix for one of the best-recorded earthquakes and confirm that the isotropic and pure vertical-CLVD components of the moment tensor cannot be independently resolved using our long-period seismic data set. Allowing for this trade-off, we evaluate several physical mechanisms that may produce earthquakes with deviatoric vertical-CLVD moment tensors. We find that physical mechanisms related to fluid flow and volumetric changes are incompatible with seismological, geological, and geodetic observations of vertical-CLVD earthquakes. However, ring-faulting mechanisms explain many characteristics of vertical-CLVD earthquakes, including their seismic radiation patterns, source durations, association with volcanoes in specific geodynamic environments, and the timing of the earthquakes relative to volcanic activity.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Seismology, Geology, and Tectonophysics
Published Here
September 19, 2013