Research ArticleGEOPHYSICS

Revealing the cluster of slow transients behind a large slow slip event

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Science Advances  30 May 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 5, eaat0661
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0661

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Capable of reaching similar magnitudes to large megathrust earthquakes [Mw (moment magnitude) > 7], slow slip events play a major role in accommodating tectonic motion on plate boundaries through predominantly aseismic rupture. We demonstrate here that large slow slip events are a cluster of short-duration slow transients. Using a dense catalog of low-frequency earthquakes as a guide, we investigate the Mw 7.5 slow slip event that occurred in 2006 along the subduction interface 40 km beneath Guerrero, Mexico. We show that while the long-period surface displacement, as recorded by Global Positioning System, suggests a 6-month duration, the motion in the direction of tectonic release only sporadically occurs over 55 days, and its surface signature is attenuated by rapid relocking of the plate interface. Our proposed description of slow slip as a cluster of slow transients forces us to re-evaluate our understanding of the physics and scaling of slow earthquakes.

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