Modeling the 2012 Wharton basin earthquakes off-Sumatra: Complete lithospheric failure

Shengji Wei, Don Helmberger, Jean Philippe Avouac

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A sequence of large strike-slip earthquakes occurred west of Sunda Trench beneath the Wharton Basin. First reports indicate that the main shock was extremely complex, involving three to four subevents (Mw > 8) with a maze of aftershocks. We investigate slip models of the two largest earthquakes by joint inversion of regional and teleseismic waveform data. Using the Mw7.2 foreshock, we developed hybrid Green's Functions for the regional stations to approximate the mixture of oceanic and continental paths. The main shock fault geometry is defined based on the back projection results, point-source mechanisms, aftershock distribution, and fine tune of grid searches. The fault system contains three faults, labeled F1 (89°/289° for dip/strike), F2 (74°/20°), and F3 (60°/310°). The inversion indicates that the main rupture consisted of a cascade of high-stress drop asperities (up to 30 MPa), extending as deep as 50 km. The rupture propagated smoothly from one fault to the next (F1, F2, and F3 in sequence) with rupture velocities of 2.0-2.5 km/s. The whole process lasted about 200 s, and the major moment release (>70%) took place on the N-S oriented F2. The Mw8.2 aftershock happened about 2 h later on a N-S oriented fault with a relatively short duration (~60 s) and also ruptured as deep as 50 km. The slip distributions suggest that the earthquake sequence was part of a broad left-lateral shear zone between the Australian and Indian plates and ruptured the whole lithosphere. These earthquakes apparently reactivated existing fracture zones and were probably triggered by unclamping of the great Sumatran earthquake of 2004. Key Points Regional path calibration could be obtained from aftershock and foreshocks. The 2012 Sumatra Earthquake sequence has ruptured the entire oceanic lithosphere Fracture zones in the Wharton Basin were reactivated by the earthquakes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3592-3609
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jul 2013


  • Cut and Paste
  • Finite Fault
  • Lithosphere Strength
  • Stress Drop
  • Wharton Basin Sumatra


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