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The Southwest Pacific Earthquake of 12 August 2016 - Magnitude 7.2

2018-06-15  |   Editor : houguangbing  
Category : Events

The August 12, 2016 M 7.2 earthquake east of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific, and the North Fiji Basin, occurred as the result of shallow strike-slip faulting on or near the complex plate boundary between the Australia and Pacific plates. At the location of this earthquake the regional plate boundary is transitional, evolving from east-northeastward-oriented subduction of Australia beneath Pacific at the New Hebrides Trench to the north and west, to southwest-northeast oriented left-lateral transform faulting between the two plates just south of this earthquake. The location of the August 12 event also lies just south and west of the Central Spreading Ridge, a zone of back-arc spreading accommodating some of the divergence between the New Hebrides and Tonga subduction zones. The focal mechanism solution of the August 12 event implies faulting occurred as the result of either right-lateral slip on a fault oriented east-southeast, or left-lateral slip oriented south-southwest. Such a mechanism is inconsistent with the expected motions between the Australia and Pacific plates, and may instead indicate the association with the development of a STEP (Subduction-Transform-Edge-Propagator) fault, a style of faulting that develops at many subduction terminations globally. Similar strike-slip events, also apparently inconsistent with local plate-motion, have occurred recently (2015) along this plate margin to the northwest at the transition from the Solomon Island subduction zone into the San Cristobal Trough (transform) plate boundary. At the location of this earthquake, the Australia plate moves towards the east-northeast with respect to the Pacific at a rate of approximately 75 mm/yr. Spreading rates along the Central Spreading Ridge are also around 75-80 mm/yr.


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