Implosive earthquakes at the active accretionary plate boundary in northern Iceland

G. R. Foulger*, R. E. Long, P. Einarsson, A. Bjornsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-double-couple earthquake focal mechanisms imply a mode of seismic failure other than simple shear, and movements perpendicular to the fault plane. Reports of such events are rare and it is controversial whether such failure can occur at depth in the Earth. Following reports of such earthquakes from the Hengill and Reykjanes volcanic systems on the accretionary plate boundary in Iceland1-3, a seismological survey was conducted in the Krafla system, Iceland, to explore whether such earthquakes occur elsewhere along the boundary. Here we report the observation of a mixed suite of focal mechanisms at Krafla, including shear events, explosive tensile-crack events such as were observed at Hengill and Reykjanes, and implosive events. These last represent cavity collapse and constitute an entirely new class of earthquake. The Krafla system had undergone a crustal spreading episode4-10 during the decade before the observations were made, and our results indicate that immediately after such an episode the accretionary plate boundary is characterized by a heterogeneous stress regime, with shear, extensional and compressional sources in close juxtaposition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-642
Number of pages3
Issue number6208
Publication statusPublished - 1989


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