The largest earthquakes are generated in subduction zones, and the earthquake rupture typically extends for hundreds of kilometres along a single subducting plate. These ruptures often begin or end at structural boundaries on the overriding plate that are associated with the subduction of prominent bathymetric features of the downgoing plate1,2. Here, we determine uplift and subsidence along shorelines for the 1 April 2007 moment magnitude MW 8.1 earthquake in the western Solomon Islands, using coral microatolls which provide precise measurements of vertical motions in locations where instrumental data are unavailable. We demonstrate that the 2007 earthquake ruptured across the subducting Simbo ridge transform and thus broke through a triple junction where the Australian and Woodlark plates subduct beneath the overriding Pacific plate. Previously, no known major megathrust rupture has involved two subducting plates. We conclude that this event illustrates the uncertainties of predicting the segmentation of subduction zone rupture on the basis of structural discontinuities.
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Variable Holocene deformation above a shallow subduction zone extremely close to the trench
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Field expenses for this project were supported by a Rapid Response grant from the Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin and by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to the Tectonics Observatory at the California Institute of Technology. This is UTIG Contribution 1939 and Caltech Tectonics Observatory Contribution 79.
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Taylor, F., Briggs, R., Frohlich, C. et al. Rupture across arc segment and plate boundaries in the 1 April 2007 Solomons earthquake. Nature Geosci 1, 253–257 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo159
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