Physical characteristics of subduction interface type seismogenic zones revisited
Based on global earthquake catalogs, the hypocenters, nodal planes, and seismic moments of worldwide subduction plate interface earthquakes were extracted for the period between 1900 and 2007. Assuming that the seismogenic zone coincides with the distribution of 5.5 ≤ M < 7 earthquakes, the subduction interface seismogenic zones were mapped for 80% of the trench systems and characterized with geometrical and mechanical parameters. Using this database, correlations were isolated between significant parameters to identify cause-effect relationships. Empirical laws obtained in previous studies were revisited in light of this more complete, accurate, and uniform description of the subduction interface seismogenic zone. The seismogenic zone was usually found to end in a fore-arc mantle, rather than at a Moho depth. The subduction velocity was the first-order controlling parameter for variations in the physical characteristics of plate interfaces, determining both the geometry and mechanical behavior. As such, the fast subduction zones and cold slabs were associated with large and steep plate interfaces, which, in turn, had large seismic rates. The subduction velocity could not account for the potential earthquake magnitude diversity that was observed along the trenches. Events with Mw ≥ 8.5 preferentially occurred in the vicinity of slab edges, where the upper plate was continental and the back-arc strain was neutral. This observation was interpreted in terms of compressive normal stresses along the plate interface. Large lateral ruptures should be promoted in neutral subduction zones due to moderate compressive stresses along the plate interface that allow the rupture to propagate laterally.