Earthquake Behavior and Structure of Oceanic Transform Faults

Emily Roland, Ph.D., 2012
Jeffrey McGuire, Advisor

Oceanic transform faults that accommodate strain at mid-ocean ridge offsets represent a unique environment for studying fault mechanics. Here, I use seismic observations and models to explore how fault structure affects mechanisms of slip at oceanic transforms.  Using teleseismic data, I find that seismic swarms on East Pacific Rise (EPR) transforms exhibit characteristics consistent with the rupture propagation velocity of shallow aseismic creep transients.  I also develop new thermal models for the ridge-transform fault environment to estimate the spatial distribution of earthquakes at transforms.  Assuming a temperature-dependent rheology, thermal models indicated that a significant amount of slip within the predicted temperature-dependent seismogenic area occurs without producing large-magnitude earthquakes.  Using a set of local seismic observations, I consider how along-fault variation in the mechanical behavior may be linked to material properties and fault structure.  I use wide-angle refraction data from the Gofar and Quebrada faults on the equatorial EPR to determine the seismic velocity structure, and image wide low-velocity zones at both faults.  Evidence for fractured fault zone rocks throughout the crust suggests that unique friction characteristics may influence earthquake behavior. Together, earthquake observations and fault structure provide new information about the controls on fault slip at oceanic transform faults.