Poster of the Vanuatu Earthquake of 27 May 2010 - Magnitude 7.1

Tectonic Summary

The Vanuatu earthquake of May 27, 2010 occurred on or near the plate boundary between the Australia and Pacific plates in the Coral Sea region of the southwest Pacific. In the region of the earthquake, the Australia plate moves to the east-northeast with respect to the Pacific plate at a velocity of approximately 91 mm/year. The Australia plate thrusts under the Pacific plate at the New Hebrides trench and dips to the east-northeast. The May 27 earthquake's location, depth, and focal mechanism are consistent with the earthquake having occurred as thrust faulting associated with subduction along the Australia-Pacific plate boundary.

This earthquake occurred between 70-130 km to the north of a sequence of large subduction thrust earthquakes in October of 2009. On October 7th, two earthquakes of M 7.7 and M 7.8 occurred 15 minutes apart. After these events, an M 7.4 aftershock struck approximately one hour later, and two M 6.6 and M 6.8 aftershocks occurred on the following day.

The Vanuatu region experiences a very high level of earthquake activity, with almost 50 events of magnitude 7 and larger having been recorded since 1973. The subducting Australia plate is seismically active to depths of about 350 km beneath the islands.

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