Active backstop faults in the Mentawai region of Sumatra, Indonesia, revealed by teleseismic broadband waveform modeling

TitleActive backstop faults in the Mentawai region of Sumatra, Indonesia, revealed by teleseismic broadband waveform modeling
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsWang X, Bradley KE, Wei S, Wu W
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Date Published02/2018

Two earthquake sequences that affected the Mentawai islands offshore of central Sumatra in 2005 (Mw 6.9) and 2009 (Mw 6.7) have been highlighted as evidence for active backthrusting of the Sumatran accretionary wedge. However, the geometry of the activated fault planes is not well resolved due to large uncertainties in the locations of the mainshocks and aftershocks. We refine the locations and focal mechanisms of medium size events (Mw > 4.5) of these two earthquake sequences through broadband waveform modeling. In addition to modeling the depth-phases for accurate centroid depths, we use teleseismic surface wave cross-correlation to precisely relocate the relative horizontal locations of the earthquakes. The refined catalog shows that the 2005 and 2009 "backthrust" sequences in Mentawai region actually occurred on steeply (similar to 60 degrees) landward-dipping faults (Masilo Fault Zone) that intersect the Sunda megathrust beneath the deepest part of the forearc basin, contradicting previous studies that inferred slip on a shallowly seaward-dipping backthrust. Static slip inversion on the newly-dproposed fault fits the coseismic GPS offsets for the 2009 mainshock equally well as previous studies, but with a slip distribution more consistent with the mainshock centroid depth (similar to 20 km) constrained from teleseismic waveform inversion. Rupture of such steeply dipping reverse faults within the forearc crust is rare along the Sumatra-Java margin. We interpret these earthquakes as 'unsticking' of the Sumatran accretionary wedge along a backstop fault separating imbricated material from the stronger Sunda lithosphere. Alternatively, the reverse faults may have originated as pre-Miocene normal faults of the extended continental crust of the western Sunda margin. Our waveform modeling approach can be used to further refine global earthquake catalogs in order to clarify the geometries of active faults.