Rupture processes of the 2012 September 5 Mw 7.6 Nicoya, Costa Rica earthquake constrained by improved geodetic and seismological observations

Chengli Liu, Yong Zheng*, Xiong Xiong, Rongjiang Wang, Allan López, Jun Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


On 2012 September 5, the anticipated interplate thrust earthquake ruptured beneath the Nicoya peninsula in northwestern Costa Rica close to the Middle America trench, with a magnitude Mw 7.6. Extensive co-seismic observations were provided by dense near-field strong ground motion, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) networks and teleseismic recordings from global seismic networks. The wealthy data sets available for the 2012 Mw 7.6 Nicoya earthquake provide a unique opportunity to investigate the details of the rupture process of this earthquake. By implementing a non-linear joint inversion with high-rate GPS waveform, more static GPS offsets, strong-motion data and teleseismic body waveform, we obtained a robust and accurate rupture model of the 2012 Mw 7.6 Nicoya earthquake. The earthquake is dominantly a pure thrust component with a maximum slip of 3.5 m, and the main large slip patch is located below the hypocentre, spanning ~50 km along dip and ~110 km along strike. The static stress drop is about 3.4 MPa. The total seismic moment of our preferred model is 3.46 × 1020 N m, which gives Mw = 7.6. Due to the fast rupture velocity, most of the seismic moment was released within 70 s. The largest slip patch directly overlaps the interseismic locked region identified by geodetic observations and extends downdip to the intersection with the upper plate Moho. We also find that there is a complementary pattern between the distribution of aftershocks and the co-seismic rupture; most aftershocks locate in the crust of the upper plate and are possibly induced by the stress change caused by the large slip patch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Body waves
  • Earthquake ground motions
  • Earthquake source observations
  • Seismic cycle
  • Seismicity and tectonics
  • Subduction zone processescover-date


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