Poster of the Vanuatu Earthquake of 02 February 2012 - Magnitude 7.1
The February 2, 2012 earthquake near Vanuatu in the southwest Pacific Ocean occurred as a result of oblique-normal faulting within the lithosphere of the Australia plate. The earthquake epicenter is located just 15 km to the west of the New Hebrides Trench, the bathymetric expression of the boundary between the Australia and Pacific plates, where lithosphere of the Australia plate subducts into the mantle beneath the North Fiji Basin. At the location of this earthquake, the Australia plate moves east-northeast with respect to the Pacific plate at a velocity of approximately 84 mm/yr.
Vanuatu region is familiar with earthquakes of this size - about a dozen earthquakes of M 7 or larger have occurred within 250 km of today's event over the past 30 years. However, they generally occur on the megathrust interface to the east, and few have been outboard of the trench. A magnitude 7.3 normal faulting earthquake did occur to the west of the New Hebrides Trench, about 225 km to the south of today's event, on Christmas Day in 2010.
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