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Earthquake in a Maze: Compressional Rupture Branching During the 2012 Mw 8.6 Sumatra Earthquake

Lingsen Meng, Jean Paul Ampuero, Joann M. Stock, Zacharie Duputel, Yicheng Luo, & Victor C. Tsai

Published August 9, 2012, SCEC Contribution #1881

Seismological observations of the 2012 moment magnitude 8.6 Sumatra earthquake reveal unprecedented complexity of dynamic rupture. The surprisingly large magnitude results from the combination of deep extent, high stress drop, and rupture of multiple faults. Back-projection source imaging indicates that the rupture occurred on distinct planes in an orthogonal conjugate fault system, with relatively slow rupture speed. The east-southeast–west-northwest ruptures add a new dimension to the seismotectonics of the Wharton Basin, which was previously thought to be controlled by north-south strike-slip faulting. The rupture turned twice into the compressive quadrant, against the preferred branching direction predicted by dynamic Coulomb stress calculations. Orthogonal faulting and compressional branching indicate that rupture was controlled by a pressure-insensitive strength of the deep oceanic lithosphere.

Meng, L., Ampuero, J., Stock, J. M., Duputel, Z., Luo, Y., & Tsai, V. C. (2012). Earthquake in a Maze: Compressional Rupture Branching During the 2012 Mw 8.6 Sumatra Earthquake. Science, 337(6095), 724-726. doi: 10.1126/science.1224030.