Research ArticleGEOPHYSICS

Earthquakes track subduction fluids from slab source to mantle wedge sink

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Science Advances  03 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaav7369
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav7369

Abstract

Subducting plates release fluids as they plunge into Earth’s mantle and occasionally rupture to produce intraslab earthquakes. It is debated whether fluids and earthquakes are directly related. By combining seismic observations and geodynamic models from western Greece, and comparing across other subduction zones, we find that earthquakes effectively track the flow of fluids from their slab source at >80 km depth to their sink at shallow (<40 km) depth. Between source and sink, the fluids flow updip under a sealed plate interface, facilitating intraslab earthquakes. In some locations, the seal breaks and fluids escape through vents into the mantle wedge, thereby reducing the fluid supply and seismicity updip in the slab. The vents themselves may represent nucleation sites for larger damaging earthquakes.

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