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Seismicity variations in the Makran region of Pakistan and Iran: Relation to great earthquakes

Abstract

Teleseismic activity in the Makran region of southeastern Iran and southwestern Pakistan prior to the great earthquake (Ms=8) of 1945 can be characterized in terms of two stages. First, during the period 30 (or more) to 10 years prior to the main event, the frequency of occurrence of moderate to large earthquakes was relatively high in the region between the impending rupture zone and the volcanic arc to the northwest. These events probably occurred near the down-dip limit of seismic activity within the subducted slab. Second, activity was concentrated along the coast during the ten years immediately preceding the great earthquake and most of this activity was confined to the vicinity of the epicenter of the 1945 earthquake. These patterns are similar in some respects to those observed prior to some large earthquakes in other parts of the world.

Three observations concerning the pre-1945 seismicity suggest it was associated with the preparation for rupture of the zone that eventually broke during the great earthquake in 1945: (1) The activity before 1945 is located either within the 1945 rupture zone or between this zone and the volcanic arc to the northwest; (2) No activity of similar magnitude and occurrence rate is observed elsewhere along the Makran plate boundary; and (3) The region that was active prior to 1945 has been relatively quiet since the decline in aftershock activity associated with the 1945 shock. The current quiescence may be related to the release of stress during the 1945 earthquake.

Recent seismicity in the region west of that affected prior to 1945 suggests that this western region may be the site of the next large earthquake. Events along the coast are grouped at both ends of a seismically quiet zone, producing a distribution similar to the ‘donut’ pattern identified by Mogi. In addition, one moderate-magnitude earthquake occurred within the subducted slab to the northwest of the donut pattern along the coast. This moderate-magnitude earthquake, the first to occur in the region immediately west of the 1945 rupture zone since the advent of instrumental recording, may be analogous to the activity of stage one associated with the 1945 earthquake. While by no means providing conclusive evidence of an impending earthquake, the characteristic patterns identified in the recent seismicity indicate that this region should be closely monitored in the future.

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Quittmeyer, R.C. Seismicity variations in the Makran region of Pakistan and Iran: Relation to great earthquakes. PAGEOPH 117, 1212–1228 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00876216

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Key words

  • Earthquake prediction
  • Seismic gaps
  • Tectonics Iran
  • Tectonics Pakistan