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Studying the Effect of Geometrical Features on Megathrust Earthquakes using Natural Observations and Seismotectonic Numerical Models


Earthquakes and associated tsunamis cause extensive human and economic losses and severe property damage in densely populated areas. The largest earthquakes occur in subduction zones, regions where one tectonic plate dives below another. To better prepare society, it is crucial to understand what controls the spatial and temporal occurrence of those largest earthquakes. Geometrical features on the seafloor that subduct with the downgoing plate, like seamounts and ridges, are thought to play an important role by segmenting the plate interface into seismic and aseismic regions. However, a physical and quantitative understanding of the role of geometrical features on the occurrence of earthquakes remains elusive due to limitations in observation time and space, as well as in modelling of crustal deformation mechanisms in 2D and 3D. SEGMENT will overcome these limitations through integrating the latest advanced forward and inverse modelling tools to study how and how much subducting geometrical features influence subduction earthquakes. Seismotectonic numerical models will be combined with probabilistic natural observations from geodesy and seafloor roughness to optimally extract complementary information and quantify elusive links. As these necessary tools are only now ready for exploration this proposal is highly timely. It will address important open questions related to how geometrical features influence the deformation at and around the plate interface, how this varies throughout multiple earthquake cycles and their role in rupture nucleation, propagation and arrest. SEGMENT thus places me in the position to make a breakthrough in a long-standing debate through providing a novel conceptual model describing the relationship between geometrical features along the subduction interface and the occurrence of earthquakes. This is crucial for improving seismic hazard assessment and our comprehension of subduction dynamics at all timescales.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/geology/seismology/plate tectonics

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Heidelberglaan 8
3584 CS Utrecht
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 175 572,48