Stratigraphic Control of Frontal Décollement Level and Structural Vergence and Implications for Tsunamigenic Earthquake Hazard in Sumatra, Indonesia

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, Volume 20 (2019)


Propagation of fault rupture to the seafloor is a likely cause of enhanced tsunami generation during megathrust earthquakes. New, high‐resolution seismic reflection profiles and swath bathymetry collected across the northern limit of the Mw 7.8, 25 October 2010 Mentawai tsunami earthquake rupture reveal significant and systematic lateral variations in both the stratigraphic level of the frontal Sunda megathrust and the vergence of its frontal ramp faults. Where ramp faults are uniformly seaward vergent, the décollement resides on top of a strong reflector marking the inferred top of pelagic sediments. Where ramp faults are bivergent (both landward and seaward), the décollement is localized within the subducting clastic sequence, above a seismically transparent unit inferred to be distal fan muds. Where ramp faults are uniformly landward vergent, the décollement is directly on top of the oceanic crust of the subducting Investigator Fracture Zone. Enhanced surface uplift and tsunami genesis during the 2010 tsunamigenic earthquake appear to have coincided with propagation of rupture into frontal areas with well‐developed structural bivergence. Frontal bivergence is a geological signal of low basal traction during accrual of slip, and offshore of Sumatra this structural style may mark areas of enhanced tsunami hazard posed by small magnitude, shallow megathrust ruptures that propagate into the incoming terrigenous sequence at near trench levels.