An ancient shallow slip event on the Mentawai segment of the Sunda megathrust, Sumatra

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Geophysical Research, Volume 117, Number B5 (2012)




The outer-arc islands of western Sumatra rise during great megathrust earthquakes, due to large slip on the underlying megathrust. In contrast, the islands subsided up to a few centimeters during the recent tsunamigenic earthquake of October 2010, due to slip far updip, near the trench. Coral microatolls on one of the islands recorded a much larger subsidence, at least 35 cm, during an event in approximately A.D. 1314. We calculate a suite of slip models, slightly deeper and/or larger than the 2010 event, that are consistent with this large amount of subsidence. Sea level records from older coral microatolls suggest that these events occur at least once every millennium, but likely far less frequently than their great downdip neighbors. The revelation that shallow slip events are important contributors to the seismic cycle of the Mentawai segment further complicates our understanding of this subduction megathrust and our assessment of the region's exposure to seismic and tsunami hazards.