The Cadell Fault, southeastern Australia: a record of temporally clustered morphogenic seismicity in a low-strain intraplate region
The Cadell Fault, found in stable continental region (SCR) crust in southeastern Australia, provides a record of temporally clustered morphogenic earthquakes spanning much of the Cenozoic. The slip rate, averaged over perhaps as many as five complete seismic cycles in the period 70–20 ka, is c. 0.4–0.5 mm a−1, compared with an average rate of c. 0.005–0.01 mm a−1 over the period spanning the late Miocene to Recent. If full length rupture of the 80 km long feature is assumed, the average recurrence for Mw 7.3–7.5 earthquake events on the Cadell Fault in the period 70–20 ka is c. 8 kyr. About 20 kyr, representing more than two average seismic cycles, have lapsed since the most recent morphogenic seismic event on the fault. It might therefore be speculated that this fault has relapsed into a quiescent period. Episodic rupture behaviour on the Cadell Fault, and nearby faults in Phanerozoic SCR crust in eastern Australia, might be controlled by their linkage into major crustal fault systems at depth, in apparent contrast with the style of deformation in non-extended Precambrian SCR crust. Periods of strain localization on these major crustal fault systems, effectively turning deforming regions ‘on’ and ‘off’, might be influenced by changes in distant plate boundary forces. If proved, this would have profound consequences for how the occurrence of large earthquakes is assessed in Australia, as the fundamental assumption of morphogenic earthquakes occurring as a result of the progressive build-up of strain, and thus being in some way predictable in their periodicity, is not satisfied. Documenting such fault behaviour in SCR crust assists in conceptualizing the points critical to understanding the hazards posed by SCR faults worldwide.