Segmentation in continental forearcs: Links between large-scale overriding plate structure and seismogenic behavior associated with the 2010 Mw 8.8 Maule, Chile earthquake

Brandon T. Bishop, Susan Beck, George Zandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Subduction along the active margin of a continental plate occurs in a context where the overriding plate's crust and lithospheric mantle may contain inherited structures significantly predating the present tectonic conditions of the margin. These structures are persistent over very long-term time scales (>105 to >106 years) and are thought to play an important role in both seismogenic processes on the megathrust and development of topography along coastlines. We use receiver functions calculated from broadband seismic data collected along the Chilean forearc between ~33°S and 38.5°S in the vicinity of the 2010 Mw 8.8 Maule earthquake to determine the structure of the overriding South American continental plate and subducting Nazca oceanic plate along and inboard of the seismogenic portion of the megathrust. We show that the Chilean forearc is divided into three structurally distinct zones: a northern zone where the continental crust intersects the subducting plate well inboard of the coast at ~35–40 km depth, a central zone where the continental crust tapers to <20 km thickness at the coast before intersecting the subducting plate at 15–20 km depth, and a southern zone corresponding approximately to the rapidly uplifting Arauco Peninsula where we find that the continental crust forms a wedge-shaped feature ~35–40 km in thickness which intersects the subducting plate well inboard of the coast. The thin crust of the central zone is associated with a dense, high velocity mantle body (the Cobquecura anomaly) that may have played an important role in stabilizing this segment of the Chilean forearc since the late Paleozoic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number228164
StatePublished - Sep 20 2019



  • Chilean Trench
  • Forearc
  • Maule Earthquake
  • Megathrust
  • Receiver Function
  • Subduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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