Shallow Seismicity of Arc-Continent Collision near Lae, Papua-New-Guinea

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Nov 30
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In northeastern New Guinea, the narrow Ramu-Markham Valley (RMV) separates island arc rocks to the north from those of continental origin to the south and appears to be the western, onland extension of the New Britain trench. To explore the tectonic processes at the leading edge of the island arc during collision, we operated a portable seismic network for six weeks near the city of Lae at the eastern end of the RMV. We observed a narrow, near-vertical belt of seismicity between 10 and 30 km depth. that we call the Lae Seismic Zone (LSZ). starting at the RMV in the southwest and trending northeasterly cutting across surface geologic structure. The truncation of the LSZ along a steep plane by the Ramu-Markham Fault Zone (RMFZ) and earthquake first motions suggest that the earthquakes occur in the hanging wall of a steep, N-dipping fault that crops out at the RMFZ. We also consider that the LSZ is within the lower plate of a gently dipping thrust. Below 20 km depth the microearthquake zone is truncated by a gently, NE-dipping plane coinciding in depth and dip with nodal planes of recent large (m(b) = 5.6 and 6.0) thrust earthquakes. 'We suggest that the Huon Peninsula is being emplaced onto the Australian plate along a gently (approximately 25-degrees) dipping thrust fault that is 20 km deep beneath Lae. The RMFZ may be a steeply dipping thrust fault that connects with this gently, N-dipping thrust but accommodates little convergence at present. The LSZ trends nearly Perpendicular to an anticlinal range which appears to be sheared in a left-lateral sense. P-wave first motions for earthquakes in the LSZ with steep (70-degrees to 90-degrees dip) nodal planes that strike parallel to the LSZ suggest a component of south-side-up displacement also. Hence, the crustal block south of the LSZ may be rising relative to the Huon Peninsula and the rapid Quaternary uplift rates estimated for the Lae coastal region may be higher than the uplift rate of the Huon Peninsula as a whole. We suggeSt that the LSZ reveals a tear of small offset in the Huon terrane but may be similar to a structure that produced a magnitude 7 earthquake near Madang in 1970.


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