The role of fluids in earthquake rupture is key to understanding seismic hazards, particularly at subduction zones. The Shumagin Gap, Alaska, is notable due to a paucity of large earthquake nucleation and weak coupling between the overriding and subducting plates. Fluids have been hypothesized to explain these observations, but the source of the fluids remains unclear. Here we present an image of the subsurface electrical resistivity derived from marine magnetotelluric data collected in the Shumagin segment. The model reveals an approximately 50-km-wide conductive (that is, fluid-rich) zone near the plate interface with fluids sourced from the dehydration of slab mantle (15–25 km beneath the crust–mantle boundary). We find that the July 2020 megathrust earthquake—which nucleated near the Semidi segment and propagated westwards into the Shumagin segment—only ruptured the conductive portion of the plate interface. This suggests that slab mantle fluids can influence the seismogenic zone by, for example, creating patches that are prone to dynamic rupture. In contrast, updip of the slip patch is simultaneously resistive and weakly coupled, suggesting that fluids alone are not responsible for weak coupling and that plate roughness plays a role. More broadly, these results suggest that slab mantle fluids could be an underappreciated fluid source in the water budgets of forearc subduction zones.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)