Seismic velocity structure across the 2013 Craig, Alaska rupture from aftershock tomography: Implications for seismogenic conditions

Maureen A.L. Walton, Emily C. Roland, Jacob I. Walter, Sean P.S. Gulick, Peter J. Dotray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The 2013 Craig, Alaska MW 7.5 earthquake ruptured along ∼150 km of the Queen Charlotte Fault (QCF), a right-lateral strike-slip plate boundary fault separating the Pacific and North American plates. Regional shear wave analyses suggest that the Craig earthquake rupture propagated in the northward direction faster than the S-wave (supershear). Theoretical studies suggest that a bimaterial interface, such as that along the QCF, which separates oceanic and continental crust with differing elastic properties, can promote supershear rupture propagation. We deployed short-period ocean-bottom seismometers (OBS) as a part of a rapid-response effort less than four months after the Craig earthquake mainshock. During a 21-day period, 1,133 aftershocks were recorded by 8 OBS instruments. Aftershock spatial distribution indicates that the base of the seismogenic zone along the QCF approaches ∼25 km depth, consistent with a thermally-controlled fault rheology expected for igneous rocks at oceanic transform faults. The spatial distribution also provides supporting evidence for a previously hypothesized active strand of the QCF system within the Pacific Plate. Tomographic traveltime inversion for velocity structure indicates a low-velocity (VP and VS) zone on the Pacific side of the plate boundary at 5–20 km depths, where Neogene Pacific crust and upper mantle seismic velocities average ∼3–11% slower than the North American side, where the Paleozoic North American crust is seismically faster. Our results suggest that elastic properties along the studied portion of the QCF are different than those of a simple oceanic–continental plate boundary fault. In our study region, velocity structure across the QCF, while bimaterial, does not support faster material on the west side of the fault, which has been proposed as one possible explanation for northward supershear propagation during the Craig earthquake. Instead, we image low-velocity material on the west side of the fault. Explanations could include that part of the rupture was subshear, or that fault damage zone properties or fault smoothness are more important controls on supershear rupture than a bimaterial contrast.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-104
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • aftershock
  • earthquake
  • seismicity
  • strike-slip
  • supershear
  • tomography

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