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A systems-based approach to parameterise seismic hazard in regions with little historical or instrumental seismicity: active fault and seismogenic source databases for southern Malawi

Williams, Jack N., Mdala, Hassan, Fagereng, Åke, Wedmore, Luke N. J., Biggs, Juliet, Dulanya, Zuze, Chindandali, Patrick and Mphepo, Felix 2021. A systems-based approach to parameterise seismic hazard in regions with little historical or instrumental seismicity: active fault and seismogenic source databases for southern Malawi. Solid Earth 12 (1) , pp. 187-217. 10.5194/se-12-187-2021

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Abstract

Seismic hazard is commonly characterised using instrumental seismic records. However, these records are short relative to earthquake repeat times, and extrapolating to estimate seismic hazard can misrepresent the probable location, magnitude, and frequency of future large earthquakes. Although paleoseismology can address this challenge, this approach requires certain geomorphic setting, is resource intensive, and can carry large inherent uncertainties. Here, we outline how fault slip rates and recurrence intervals can be estimated by combining fault geometry, earthquake-scaling relationships, geodetically derived regional strain rates, and geological constraints of regional strain distribution. We apply this approach to southern Malawi, near the southern end of the East African Rift, and where, although no on-fault slip rate measurements exist, there are constraints on strain partitioning between border and intra-basin faults. This has led to the development of the South Malawi Active Fault Database (SMAFD), a geographical database of 23 active fault traces, and the South Malawi Seismogenic Source Database (SMSSD), in which we apply our systems-based approach to estimate earthquake magnitudes and recurrence intervals for the faults compiled in the SMAFD. We estimate earthquake magnitudes of MW 5.4–7.2 for individual fault sections in the SMSSD and MW 5.6–7.8 for whole-fault ruptures. However, low fault slip rates (intermediate estimates ∼ 0.05–0.8 mm/yr) imply long recurrence intervals between events: 102–105 years for border faults and 103–106 years for intra-basin faults. Sensitivity analysis indicates that the large range of these estimates can best be reduced with improved geodetic constraints in southern Malawi. The SMAFD and SMSSD provide a framework for using geological and geodetic information to characterise seismic hazard in regions with few on-fault slip rate measurements, and they could be adapted for use elsewhere in the East African Rift and globally.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Additional Information: This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Publisher: European Geosciences Union (EGU) / Copernicus Publications
ISSN: 1869-9510
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 January 2021
Date of Acceptance: 18 November 2020
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2021 02:20
URI: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/138008

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