Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems


The rotations of tectonic plates provide a partial description of the total observed displacements at the Earth’s surface. The estimated number of kinematically distinct plates has increased from 12 in 1990 to 56 in 2010 as a result of the increase in the number of kinematic observables. At length scales <1,000 km, rotation-only plate models are inaccurate because geodetic signals of long-term plate motions are complicated by earthquake cycle effects. Here we present results from a global block model that unifies large-scale plate motions and local earthquake cycle effects at plate boundaries. Incorporating the rotations of 307 distinct plates, elastic strain accumulation from 16 subduction zones and 1.59×107 km2 of fault system area, this model explains 19,664 interseismic GPS velocities at a resolution of 2.2 mm/year. Geodetically constrained fault slip deficit rates yield a cumulative global moment accumulation rate of 1.09 × 1022 N⋅m/year, 12% larger than the average annual coseismic moment release rate from 1900 to 2013. The potential contribution to the total moment rate budget can be estimated from the frequency distribution of the modeled fault slip-deficit rates, which follow an exponential distribution. Integrating this frequency distribution over all possible slip rates indicates that the geologic structures included in this reference global block model account for 98% of the global moment budget. Comparing our results with population distribution, we find that ∼50% of the world’s population lives within 200 km of an active fault with a slip rate >2 mm/year.



First Page


Last Page




©2018. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


Archived as published.

Included in

Geology Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.