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Relocation of large intermediate-depth earthquakes in the Vrancea region, Romania, since 1934 and a seismic gap

Abstract

We relocated M 6 or larger intermediate-depth earthquakes in Vrancea, Romania that have occurred since 1934. To determine their absolute hypocenters accurately, we combined them with recent (from January 1996 to November 2003) smaller earthquakes recorded by the Romanian local network and then relocated all of them simultaneously using a modified joint hypocenter determination method. Using the data on recent small earthquakes we first obtained an estimate of the dimensions of the active seismic region of intermediate-depth earthquakes: length, 85 km; along a NE-SW direction; width, 20 km; depth 60-160 km. We then determined that the 1940 (M 7.7), 1977 (M 7.5) and 1990 (M 6.9) major earthquakes were located near the NE edge of the seismic region, while the 1986 (M 7.2) was located inside the seismic region. The focal depths of the 1940, 1977, 1986 and 1990 major earthquakes were calculated to be 124, 98, 135 and 84 km, respectively and their source areas to range from 60 to 140 km in depth. The only unbroken area is at a depth of 140–160 km, which we current consider to be a seismic gap. Based on the regularity of past large earthquakes, we propose that the next M 7 intermediate-depth earthquake can be expected to occur in Vrancea at a depth interval of 140–160 km sometime early in this century.

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Correspondence to Nobuo Hurukawa.

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Key words

  • Relocation
  • joint hypocenter determination
  • intermediate-depth earthquake
  • Vrancea
  • Romania