Theses Doctoral

Long-term and short-term processes affecting inelastic deformation above subduction zone interfaces

Oryan, Bar

Numerous observations suggest that the elastic description of the subduction earthquake cycles is incomplete. Micro-seismicity is recorded in active margins that are believed to be locked, while peculiar extensional earthquakes occur in convergent plate boundaries following tsunami earthquakes. The morphology of active margins, which evolves on time scales of 100s of kyr, shows similarities to ongoing deformation documented over 10–100 yrs and the coastal domains of Cascadia, Chile, and other subduction zones record long-term uplift. Lastly, the very threshold where faults break and earthquake nucleate has been vigorously debated for years.

In this thesis, I combine various geophysical tools to study short- and long-term processes and learn how their interplay can shape the deformation field imparted by earthquake cycles, mainly in the upper plate of subduction zones. In the first chapter, I analyze surface heat flow measurements taken in the proximity of the southern Dead Sea fault to demonstrate its friction is 0.27±0.17. In the second chapter, I compute an updated horizontal and vertical GNSS velocity field for Bangladesh, Myanmar, and adjacent regions.

I show that the Kabaw fault, which lies east of the primary thrust system, is accommodating shortening that was initially attributed to the main thrust and demonstrate that the Indo-Burma subduction is locked, converging, and capable of hosting great megathrust events. In the third chapter, I use thermomechanical models to show that reducing the dip angle of a subducting slab, on a timescale of millions of years, can result in extensional fault failure above a megathrust earthquake on timescales of seconds to months. In the fourth chapter, I demonstrate how the buildup of interseismic elastic stresses brings sections of the forearc into compressional failure, which yields irreversible uplift of the coastal domain per evidence from Chile.

Finally, I argue that combining short- and long-term processes into subduction zone models can better mitigate tsunami and earthquake hazards. I show how long-term reduction of slab dip angle could culminate in devastating tsunamis. I argue that the collection of long-term uplift records of upper plates or volcanic arc migration can constrain slab dip changes and so may identify areas with increased tsunami potential. In addition, upper plate irreversible deformation should be introduced to earthquake rupture models as these may hold significant implications for understanding and mitigating earthquake hazards.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Buck, Roger
Steckler, Michael S.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 2, 2022