Overview: Seismogenic Zone Experiment Mini-Lessons

Jeff Marshall, Casey Moore, David Pearson, Eliza Richardson

The Margins Seize initiative focused on physical subduction zone processes that generate earthquakes as well as those processes that lead to other less well-known plate boundary interactions such as slow slip and tremor.

Most of the world's great earthquakes occur in subduction zones; therefore studying the seismic processes that occur in different subduction zones has important implications for hazard assessment and mitigation as well as our understanding of the fundamental physics underlying the theory of plate tectonics.

The Seismogenic Zone Initiative (SEIZE) seeks to address the following questions at the Central American and Nankai Trough focus sites:

  • What is the nature of strong, locked parts of seismogenic zones?
  • What are the temporal relationships among stress, strain, and fluid composition throughout the earthquake cycle?
  • What controls the up- and down-dip limits of the seismogenic zone?
  • What is the nature of the tsunamigenic earthquake zone?
  • What is the role of large thrust earthquakes in mass flux of material in the subduction system?

To help integrate important results from SEIZE into geoscience curricula, we have developed mini-lessons intended to introduce students to authentic data and guide student exploration of the different physical processes that occur at different subduction zones.

  • Accretionary vs. Erosive Subduction Margins - This module challenges students to critique the validity of the standard "accretionary prism" cartoon at subduction zones. Using a mass balance approach, students will evaluate the fate of sediment at subduction margins and be able to distinguish erosive from accretionary forearcs.
  • The Spectrum of Fault Slip - This mini-lesson involves student analysis of data from the Central American focus site and guides students to discover and characterize a range of slip behaviors at subduction zones including slow slip events and ordinary fast-rupturing earthquakes.
  • The Plate Boundary Fault of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake: Oceanic Provenance and Earthquake Production - This mini lesson provides an example of how stratigraphy influences tectonics, and vice versa. Students will be able to examine a series of stratigraphic columns and predict the likehood of a tsunamigenic earthquake at the Kurile-Japan-Izu Bonin subduction zone.

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