Sources of seismic hazard in British Columbia: what controls earthquakes in the crust?

Date

2011-10-19

Authors

Balfour, Natalie Joy

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Abstract

This thesis examines processes causing faulting in the North American crust in the northern Cascadia subduction zone. A combination of seismological methods, including source mechanism determination, stress inversion and earthquake relocations are used to determine where earthquakes occur and what forces influence faulting. We also determine if forces that control faulting can be monitored using seismic anisotropy. Investigating the processes that contribute to faulting in the crust is important because these earthquakes pose significant hazard to the large population centres in British Columbia and Washington State. To determine where crustal earthquakes occur we apply double-difference earthquake relocation techniques to events in the Fraser River Valley, British Columbia, and the San Juan Islands, Washington. This technique is used to identify "hidden" active structures using both catalogue and waveform cross-correlation data. Results have significantly reduced uncertainty over routine catalogue locations and show lineations in areas of clustered seismicity. In the Fraser River Valley these lineations or streaks appear to be hidden structures that do not disrupt near-surface sediments; however, in the San Juan Islands the identified lineation can be related to recently mapped surface expressions of faults. To determine forces that influence faulting we investigate the orientation and sources of stress using Bayesian inversion results from focal mechanism data. More than 600 focal mechanisms from crustal earthquakes are calculated to identify the dominant style of faulting and inverted to estimate the principal stress orientations and the stress ratio. Results indicate the maximum horizontal compressive stress (SHmax) orientation changes with distance from the subduction interface, from margin-normal along the coast to margin-parallel further inland. We relate the margin-normal stress direction to subduction-related strain rates due to the locked interface between the North America and Juan de Fuca plates just west of Vancouver Island. Further from the margin the plates are coupled less strongly and the margin-parallel SHmax relates to the northward push of the Oregon Block. Active faults around the region are generally thrust faults that strike east-west and might accommodate the margin- parallel compression. Finally, we consider whether crustal anisotropy can be used as a stress monitoring tool in this region. We identify sources and variations of crustal anisotropy using shear-wave splitting analysis on local crustal earthquakes. Results show spatial variations in fast directions, with margin-parallel fast directions at most stations and margin-perpendicular fast directions at stations in the northeast of the region. To use seismic anisotropy as a stress indicator requires identifying which stations are primarily in uenced by stress. We determine the source of anisotropy at each station by comparing fast directions from shear-wave splitting results to the SHmax orientation. Most stations show agreement between these directions suggesting that anisotropy is stress-related. These stations are further analysed for temporal variations and show variation that could be associated with earthquakes (ML 3{5) and episodic tremor and slip events. The combination of earthquake relocations, source mechanisms, stress and anisotropy is unique and provides a better understanding of faulting and stress in the crust of northern Cascadia.

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Keywords

faulting, Cascadia subduction zone, crustal anisotropy

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