Large-scale dynamic triggering of shallow slow slip enhanced by overlying sedimentary wedge


Slow slip events have become recognized in the last decade as an important mode of fault slip, and are most widely observed at subduction zones. Many episodes of tectonic tremor (related to slow slip) have been triggered by distant earthquakes due to dynamic-stress changes from passing seismic waves. However, there are few clear examples of large, geodetically detected slow slip events triggered by distant earthquakes. Here we use analyses of seismic and geodetic data to show that the magnitude 7.8 Kaikōura earthquake in New Zealand in 2016 triggered a large slow slip event between 250 and 600 km away. The slow slip was shallow, at less than 15 km deep, and spanned more than 15,000 km2 of the central and northern Hikurangi subduction margin. The slow slip initiated immediately after the earthquake, lasted one to two weeks and was accompanied by a swarm of seismicity. We show that changes in dynamic stress in the slow slip source area ranged from 100 to 600 kPa—approximately 1,000 times greater than the static-stress changes of 0.2 to 0.7 kPa. We therefore propose that the slow slip event was triggered by dynamic-stress changes caused by passing seismic waves. Furthermore, the dynamic-stress changes were greatest on the shallow subduction interface, at less than 10 km depth, in a region overlain by a sedimentary wedge that acts as a waveguide, trapping seismic energy and probably promoting triggering of slip. This suggests that shallow slow slip events are more easily triggered by dynamic-stress changes compared with deep events.

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Figure 1: Total slip on the shallow Hikurangi subduction interface following the 2016 Kaikōura M7.8 earthquake.
Figure 2: Continuous GPS time series showing east coast slow slip following the Kaikōura earthquake.
Figure 3: Evolution of shallow slow slip on the Hikurangi subduction zone during the days following the Kaikōura earthquake.
Figure 4: Stress changes on the Hikurangi interface induced by the Kaikōura earthquake.


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We thank for providing the cGPS and seismological data, and AllTerra NZ for additional GPS data. We acknowledge funding support for this work from GNS Science, the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and the NZ Ministry for Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE). L.M.W. and N.B. acknowledge support from NSF grants OCE-1551876 and OCE-1551929. We wish to acknowledge the contribution of the NeSI high-performance computing facilities to the results of this research. New Zealand’s national facilities are provided by the NZ eScience Infrastructure and funded jointly by NeSI’s collaborator institutions and through MBIE’s Research Infrastructure programme.

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L.M.W. conceived the study, undertook the TDEFNODE inversions, and led the writing of the paper. Y.K. undertook the dynamic-stress-change modelling, and contributed to the interpretations and writing of the paper. N.B. was responsible for the Network Inversion Filter inversions. I.H. undertook the Coulomb stress change modelling. S.H. and E.D’A. undertook processing of the cGPS data. Z.P. and B.F. contributed locations of repeaters during the SSE and provided seismological expertise and insights into remote triggering of SSEs.

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Correspondence to Laura M. Wallace.

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Wallace, L., Kaneko, Y., Hreinsdóttir, S. et al. Large-scale dynamic triggering of shallow slow slip enhanced by overlying sedimentary wedge. Nature Geosci 10, 765–770 (2017).

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