Hikurangi Subduction Margin Coring and Observatories1
Unlocking the secrets of slow slip through drilling to sample and monitor the forearc and subducting plate
Published July 2018
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Slow slip events (SSEs) at the northern Hikurangi subduction margin, New Zealand, are among the best-documented shallow SSEs on Earth. International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 375 was undertaken to investigate the processes and in situ conditions that underlie subduction zone SSEs at the northern Hikurangi Trough by (1) coring at four sites, including an active fault near the deformation front, the upper plate above the high-slip SSE source region, and the incoming sedimentary succession in the Hikurangi Trough and atop the Tūranganui Knoll Seamount, and (2) installing borehole observatories in an active thrust near the deformation front and in the upper plate overlying the slow slip source region. Logging-while-drilling (LWD) data for this project were acquired as part of Expedition 372 (26 November 2017–4 January 2018; see the Expedition 372 Preliminary Report for further details on the LWD acquisition program).
Northern Hikurangi subduction margin SSEs recur every 1–2 years and thus provide an ideal opportunity to monitor deformation and associated changes in chemical and physical properties throughout the slow slip cycle. Sampling of material from the sedimentary section and oceanic basement of the subducting plate reveals the rock properties, composition, lithology, and structural character of material that is transported downdip into the SSE source region. A recent seafloor geodetic experiment raises the possibility that SSEs at northern Hikurangi may propagate all the way to the trench, indicating that the shallow thrust fault zone targeted during Expedition 375 may also lie in the SSE rupture area. Hence, sampling at this location provides insights into the composition, physical properties, and architecture of a shallow fault that may host slow slip.
Expedition 375 (together with the Hikurangi subduction LWD component of Expedition 372) was designed to address three fundamental scientific objectives: (1) characterize the state and composition of the incoming plate and shallow plate boundary fault near the trench, which comprise the protolith and initial conditions for fault zone rock at greater depth and which may itself host shallow slow slip; (2) characterize material properties, thermal regime, and stress conditions in the upper plate above the core of the SSE source region; and (3) install observatories at an active thrust near the deformation front and in the upper plate above the SSE source to measure temporal variations in deformation, temperature, and fluid flow. The observatories will monitor volumetric strain (via pore pressure as a proxy) and the evolution of physical, hydrological, and chemical properties throughout the SSE cycle. Together, the coring, logging, and observatory data will test a suite of hypotheses about the fundamental mechanics and behavior of SSEs and their relationship to great earthquakes along the subduction interface.
1 Saffer, D.M., Wallace, L.M., Petronotis, K., and the Expedition 375 Scientists, 2018. Expedition 375 Preliminary Report: Hikurangi Subduction Margin Coring and Observatories. International Ocean Discovery Program. https://doi.org/10.14379/iodp.pr.375.2018
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