Large magnitude (Mw ∼ ≥6) earthquakes in extensional settings are often associated with simultaneous rupture of multiple normal faults as a result of static and/or dynamic stress transfer. Here, we report details of the coseismic breaching of a previously unrecognized large-scale fault relay zone in central Greece, through three successive normal fault earthquakes of moderate magnitude (Mw 5.7–6.3) that occurred over a period of ∼10 days in March 2021. Specifically, joint analysis of InSAR, GNSS and seismological data, coupled with detailed field and digital fault mapping, reveals that the Tyrnavos Earthquake Sequence (TES) was accommodated at the northern end of a ∼100 km wide transfer structure, by faults largely unbroken during the Holocene. By contrast, the southern section of this relay zone appears to have accrued significant slip during Holocene. InSAR-derived displacements agree with the loci of eight subtle, previously undetected, faults that accommodated coseismic and/or syn-seismic normal fault slip during the TES. Kinematic modeling coupled with fault mapping suggests that all involved faults are interconnected at depth, with their conjugate fault-intersections acting largely as barriers to coseismic rupture propagation. We also find that the TES mainshocks were characterized by unusually high (>6 MPa) stress-drop values that scale inversely with rupture length and earthquake magnitude. These findings, collectively suggest that the TES propagated north-westward to rupture increasingly stronger asperities at fault intersections, transferring slip between the tips of a well-established, but previously unrecognized, relay structure. Fault relay zones may be prone to high stress-drop earthquakes and associated elevated seismic hazard.
- coseismic slip
- fault intersection
- multi-fault earthquake sequence
- normal fault
- relay fault zone