Two groups publishing in this issue of Nature analyse the seismic context of the Iquique earthquake that occurred off the coast of northern Chile on 1 April 2014 in a seismic zone that had been quiescent since a significant event in 1877. Gavin Hayes et al. identify areas of remaining or elevated earthquake hazard along the megathrust fault in the region, and conclude that the 2014 Iquique event was not the earthquake that had been anticipated. Given that significant sections of the northern Chile subduction zone have not ruptured in almost 150 years, they suggest that it is likely that future megathrust earthquakes will occur south and potentially north of the 2014 Iquique sequence. Bernd Schurr et al. show that the April 2014 earthquake broke a central fraction of the ‘northern Chile seismic gap’, the last major segment of the South American plate boundary that had yet to rupture in the past century. From July 2013 up to the April earthquake they identify three seismic clusters along this part of the plate boundary, each lasting a few weeks, with earthquakes of increasing peak magnitudes. They conclude that these seismic clusters and their slip transients reflect a gradual weakening of the central part of the seismic gap that was instrumental in initiating the final failure.
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