Poster of the Samoa Islands Region Earthquake of 29 September 2009 - Magnitude 8.0
Versión en Español
The broad-scale tectonics of the Tonga region are dominated by the relative convergence of the Pacific and Australia plates, with the Pacific plate subducting westward beneath the Australia plate at the Tonga trench. At the latitude of the earthquake of September 29, 2009, the Pacific plate moves westward with respect to the interior of the Australia plate at a velocity of about 86 mm/year. The earthquake occurred near the northern end of a 3,000 km long segment of the Pacific/Australia plate boundary that trends north-northeast.; farther north of the earthquakes source region, the plate boundary trends northwest and then west. The eastern edge of the broad Australia plate may be viewed as a collection of small plates or microplates that move with respect to each other and with respect to the Pacific plate and the Australia plate interior.
On the basis of currently available location and fault mechanism information, we infer that the September 29 earthquake occurred as a normal fault rupture on or near the outer rise of the subducting Pacific plate.
The broad-scale Australia/Pacific plate boundary is one of the most active earthquake regions in the world. Earthquakes occur on the thrust-fault boundary between the Australia and Pacific plates, within the Pacific plate on both sides of the trench, and within and on the boundaries of the small plates that compose the eastern edge of the overall Australia plate.
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