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A long-standing goal of subduction zone earthquake studies is to determine whether or not there are physical processes that control seismogenesis and the along-strike segmentation of the megathrust. Studies of individual earthquakes and global compilations of earthquakes find favorable comparison between coseismic interplate slip distributions and several different long-lived forearc characteristics, such as bathymetry, coastline morphology, crustal structure, and interplate frictional properties, but no single explanation seems to govern the location and slip distribution of all earthquakes. One possible reason for the lack of a unifying explanation is that the inferred earthquake parameters, most importantly the slip distribution, calculated in some areas were inaccurate, blurring correlation between earthquake and physical parameters. In this paper, we seek to test this possibility by comparing accurate slip distributions constrained by multiple datasets along several segments of a single subduction zone with the various physical properties that have been proposed to control or correlate with seismogenesis. We examine the rupture area and slip distribution of 6 recent and historical large (Mw > 7) earthquakes on the Peru–northern Chile subduction zone. This analysis includes a new slip distribution of the 14 November 2007 Mw = 7.7 earthquake offshore Tocopilla, Chile constrained by teleseismic body wave and InSAR data. In studying the 6 events, we find that no single mechanism can explain the location or extent of rupture of all earthquakes, but analysis of the forearc gravity field and its gradients shows correlation with many of the observed slip patterns, as suggested by previous studies. Additionally, large-scale morphological features including the Nazca Ridge, Arica Bend, Mejillones Peninsula, and transverse crustal fault systems serve as boundaries between distinct earthquake segments.





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