GeoPhysical Research Letters
Wasja Bloch 1,2; Bernd Schurr 2; Jörn Kummerow 1; Pablo Salazar 3,4; and Serge A. Shapiro 1
1 Institut für Geologische Wissenschaften, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
2 Deutsches GeoForschungszentrum Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
3 Departamento de Ciencias Geológicas, Universidad Católica del Norte, Antofagasta, Chile
4 National Research Center for Integrated Natural Disasters Management (CIGIDEN), Santiago, Chile
We investigate the stress field that the Nazca slab experiences during subduction beneath the South American plate by determining the focal mechanisms of moderate subduction-related earthquakes continuously from 20- to 120-km depth and inverting for the stress directions of four slab regions. Our results show the sharp termination of the coupling zone, which is characterized by compressional stresses, uplift of the overlying mountain range, and likely the activation of preexisting slab structures. Beyond and below this zone slab pull is the dominant stress. Near the slab surface, we also find signatures of the activation of inherited structures. Deeper in the slab, fault orientations are more likely controlled by the stress field alone. Along the subduction pathway, we find indication for an increase of the absolute slab pull component of the stress field that correlates with an increase in event rate and the occurrence possibility of M >7 intermediate depth earthquakes.