Bayesian regional moment tensor from ocean bottom seismograms recorded in the Lesser Antilles: Implications for regional stress field

Mike Lindner, Andreas Rietbrock, Lidong Bie, Saskia Goes, Jenny Collier, Catherine Rychert, Nicholas Harmon, Stephen P. Hicks, Tim Henstock, the VoiLA Working Group

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Seismic activity in the Lesser Antilles (LA) is characterized by strong regional variability along the arc reflecting the complex subduction setting and history. Although routine seismicity monitoring can rely on an increasing number of island stations, the island-arc setting means that high-resolution monitoring and detailed studies of fault structures require a network of ocean bottom seismometers (OBS). As part of the 2016–2017 Volatile recycling at the Lesser Antilles arc (VoiLA) project, we deployed 34 OBS stations in the forearc and backarc. During the deployment time, 381 events were recorded within the subduction zone. In this paper, we perform full-waveform regional moment tensor (RMT) inversions, to gain insight into the stress distribution along the arc and at depth. We developed a novel inversion approach, AmΦB—‘Amphibious Bayesian’, taking into account uncertainties associated with OBS deployments. Particularly, the orientation of horizontal components (alignment uncertainty) and the high noise level on them due to ocean microseisms are accounted for using AmΦB. The inversion is conducted using a direct, uniform importance sampling of the fault parameters within a multidimensional tree structure: the uniXtree-sampling algorithm. We show that the alignment of the horizontal OBS components, particularly in high noise level marine environments, influences the obtained source mechanism when using standard least-squares (L2) RMT inversion schemes, resulting in systematic errors in the recovered focal mechanisms including high artificial compensated linear vector dipole (CLVD) contributions. Our Bayesian formulation in AmΦB reduces these CLVD components by nearly 60 per cent and the aberration of the focal geometry as measured by the Kagan angle by around 40 per cent relative to a standard L2 inversion. Subsequently, we use AmΦB-RMT to obtain 45 (Mw > 3.8) regional MT solutions, out of which 39 are new to any existing database. Combining our new results with existing solutions, we subsequently analyse a total of 151 solutions in a focal mechanism classification (FMC) diagram and map them to the regional tectonic setting. We also use our newly compiled RMT database to perform stress tensor inversions along the LA subduction zone. On the plate interface, we observe the typical compressional stress regime of a subduction zone and find evidence for upper-plate strike slip and normal fault behaviour in the north that becomes a near arc-perpendicular extensional stress regime towards the south. A dominant slab perpendicular extensional stress regime is found in the slab at 100–200 km beneath the central part of the arc. We interpret this stress condition to be a result of slab pull varying along the arc due to partial slab detachment along previously hypothesized lateral slab tear near Grenada, at the southern end of the LA arc, leading to reactivation of pre-existing structures around the subducted Proto-Caribbean ridge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036–1054
Number of pages19
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
Early online date15 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Earthquake source observations; Seismicity and tectonics; Waveform inversion; Fractures
  • faults
  • high strain deformation zones; Subduction zone processes

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