3D Local Earthquake Tomography of the Ecuadorian Margin in the Source Area of the 2016 Mw 7.8 Pedernales Earthquake

Sergio León-Ríos, Lidong Bie, Hans Agurto-Detzel, Andreas Rietbrock, Audrey Galve, Alexandra Alvarado, Susan Beck, Philippe Charvis, Yvonne Font, Silvana Hidalgo, Mariah Hoskins, Mireille Laigle, Davide Oregioni, Anne Meltzer, Mario Ruiz, Jack Woollam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Based on manually analyzed waveforms recorded by the permanent Ecuadorian network and our large aftershock deployment installed after the Pedernales earthquake, we derive three-dimensional Vp and Vp/Vs structures and earthquake locations for central coastal Ecuador using local earthquake tomography. Images highlight the features in the subducting and overriding plates down to 35 km depth. Vp anomalies (∼4.5–7.5 km/s) show the roughness of the incoming oceanic crust (OC). Vp/Vs varies from ∼1.75 to ∼1.94, averaging a value of 1.82 consistent with terranes of oceanic nature. We identify a low Vp (∼5.5 km/s) region extending along strike, in the marine forearc. To the North, we relate this low Vp and Vp/Vs (<1.80) region to a subducted seamount that might be part of the Carnegie Ridge (CR). To the South, the low Vp region is associated with high Vp/Vs (>1.85) which we interpret as deeply fractured, probably hydrated OC caused by the CR being subducted. These features play an important role in controlling the seismic behavior of the margin. While subducted seamounts might contribute to the nucleation of intermediate megathrust earthquakes in the northern segment, the CR seems to be the main feature controlling the seismicity in the region by promoting creeping and slow slip events offshore that can be linked to the updip limit of large megathrust earthquakes in the northern segment and the absence of them in the southern region over the instrumental period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JB020701
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Ecuador
  • aftershocks
  • megathrust earthquake
  • seismic tomography
  • subduction zone
  • velocity structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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