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Slip-rate variability and distributed deformation in the Marmara Sea fault system


The slip rate along a fault controls the accumulation of strain that is eventually released during an earthquake1. Along a 150-km-long stretch of the North Anatolian fault near Istanbul, Turkey, strain has been building up2 since the last large earthquake in 1766. Estimates of the geodetic slip rates along the main Marmara fault vary widely, ranging between 17 and 27.9 mm yr−1 (refs 2, 3, 4, 5). This slip rate is difficult to quantify because of the lack of satellite observations offshore and the complexity of the submarine fault system that includes the main Marmara fault2,6,7. Here we estimate the right-lateral slip rate on the main Marmara fault using a three-dimensional geomechanical model that incorporates these structural complexities. From our simulations we infer slip rates between 12.8 and 17.8 mm yr−1; our estimates are smaller and more variable than previous results, primarily because of slip partitioning and internal deformation. Our model results reconcile geodetic observations and geological fault slip rates8,9,10, which had been considered conflicting previously. We suggest that the inferred variability in slip rate on the main Marmara fault favours segmented release of seismic moment during consecutive events over the failure of the whole seismic gap in one large earthquake.

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Figure 1: Tectonic setting of Anatolia.
Figure 2: Model geometry and finite-element discretization.
Figure 3: Velocities and fault slip rates at the surface.
Figure 4: North–south profiles of east–west velocity.


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We thank A. Bécel, M. Laigle and A. Hirn for providing data for the basement topography and Moho, and A. Hirn, K. Fuchs, F. Wenzel and M. Laigle for suggestions. This work was supported by the CEDIM Project at the University of Karlsruhe and GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and by the Task Force VII ‘Temporal and Spatial Changes of Stress and Strain’ of the International Lithosphere Program.

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The modelling and analysis was carried out by T.H., in consultation with O.H. Both authors wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Tobias Hergert or Oliver Heidbach.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Hergert, T., Heidbach, O. Slip-rate variability and distributed deformation in the Marmara Sea fault system. Nature Geosci 3, 132–135 (2010).

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