Stress Accumulation Between Volcanoes: An Explanation for Intra-Arc Earthquakes in Nicaragua?

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Destructive upper crustal earthquakes in Central America are often located between active volcanic centres—a geometric relationship that we study using finite element Coulomb failure stress (CFS) models that incorporate the rheologically heterogeneous nature of the volcanic arc. Volcanoes are simulated as mechanically weak zones within a stronger crust. We find that deformation of the volcanic centres within a regional stress field dominated by dextral shear causes stress increases in surrounding crust, with a maximum CFS change between neighbouring volcanoes. This increase in CFS enhances the probability of fault slip on arc-normal faults that are located between volcanic centres; for example, the Tiscapa fault, which ruptured during the 1972 December 13, Ms 6.2 Managua earthquake. The amount of stress increase due to long-term (100 yr) volcano shearing is on the order of 0.1–0.6 bars, similar to values estimated for subduction zone earthquakes.

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Geophysical Journal International, v. 169, issue 3, p. 1132-1138