Letter | Published:

Limited overlap between the seismic gap and coseismic slip of the great 2010 Chile earthquake

Nature Geoscience volume 4, pages 173177 (2011) | Download Citation


This article has been updated


The Mw 8.8 mega-thrust earthquake and tsunami that occurred on 27 February 2010 offshore the Maule region, Chile, was not unexpected. A clearly identified seismic gap1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 existed in an area where tectonic loading has been accumulating since the great 1835 earthquake14. Here we jointly invert tsunami and geodetic data to derive a robust model for the coseismic slip distribution and induced coseismic stress changes. We compare these with past earthquakes and the preseismic locking distribution13, to assess if the Maule earthquake has filled the seismic gap. We find that the main slip patch is located to the north of the gap, overlapping the rupture zone of the Mw 8.0 earthquake that occurred in 1928, with a secondary concentration of slip to the south. The seismic gap was only partially filled and a zone of high preseismic locking remains unbroken, inconsistent with the assumption that distributions of seismic rupture might be correlated with preseismic locking. Moreover, we conclude that increased stress on the unbroken patch may in turn have increased the probability of another major to great earthquake there in the near future.

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Change history

  • 08 February 2011

    In the version of this Letter originally published online, the y-axis values and label were missing from Fig. 3c. This error has now been corrected in all versions of the Letter.


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We acknowledge discussions with our colleagues E. Tinti and A. Herrero about seismic rupture properties, and with S. Nalbant about coseismic stress. We also acknowledge C. Vigny, leader for the acquisition of the GPSCOPE GPS data in Chile. We thank N. D’Agostino and E. D’Anastasio, who set up and implemented the GPS data processing strategy. We appreciate the effort of our colleagues at Cornell University who developed the tsunami-modelling package. We moreover wish to thank all of the data providers who made this study possible. Some figures were drawn with generic mapping tools (http://gmt.soest.hawaii.edu/). J.M. acknowledges support from the UK NERC under grant numbers NE/F01161X/1 and NE/H008519/1.

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  1. Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Via di Vigna Murata 605, 00143 Rome, Italy

    • S. Lorito
    • , F. Romano
    • , S. Atzori
    • , A. Avallone
    • , M. Cocco
    • , E. Boschi
    •  & A. Piatanesi
  2. Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0225, USA

    • X. Tong
  3. Environmental Sciences Research Institute, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland

    • J. McCloskey


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S.L., F.R. and A.P. were involved in all of the phases of this study. S.A., X.T. and A.A. processed, modelled and analysed geodetic data, and wrote part of the Methods. J.M. and M.C. contributed to result interpretation and paper writing. E.B. promoted the experiment, contributed to result interpretation and supported the project.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. Lorito.

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