«The interplay between subduction processes and natural disasters in Chile -INSUD-» the project was awarded in the contest of the Rings of Research in Science and Technology and Research Rings in Antarctic Science 2017 of the Associative Research Program of CONICYT.
The duration of the project is 3 years. INSUD is made up of academics / researchers from the Department of Geophysics of the University of Chile, from the Earth Studies group. of the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile

What does INSUD study?

The proposal focuses on the Chilean subduction zone that is located on a tectonic edge where the Nazca plate slides beneath the South American plate. This process results in catastrophic events, such as large earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions that affect millions of people.

The project includes three general lines of research:

  • Marine Geophysics, led by Professor Eduardo Contreras
  • Seismology, led by Professor Javier Ruiz
  • Volcanic Processes in the Chilean Andes, led by Professor Daniel Díaz

Understanding the natural environment is essential to reduce the impact of natural hazards.

Objective of study

INSUD aims to study the structure of the Nazca oceanic plate before and during subduction, the interplate seismicity, the superficial cortical seismicity in the upper plate, the deep intraplate seismicity (60-350 km), the structure of the upper plate, the magmatic and hydrothermal systems around the volcanic areas.

The objective is to  explore these issues in two key research areas (although not exclusively) that have recently been affected by major  earthquakes and volcanic eruptions or high volcanic activity:

  1. NC (19 ° -24 ° S) focusing on the event of Iquique Mw 8.1 and the volcanic zone of the central Andes at this latitude
  2. SC (41 ° -43 ° S) focusing on the event of Chiloé Mw 7.6 and the recent eruption of the Calbuco volcano occurred in 2015

The results obtained by these studies will be integrated to evaluate the impact of subduction processes in natural disasters.


Human Capital Formation

Another objective, not less important, is to increase significantly   the amount of highly qualified geoscientists in Chile, to improve knowledge in the subduction processes at regional and local scales.

Pre- and post-graduate students are expected to be trained in the methods of marine geophysics, seismology, potential and electromagnetic methods (for example, intra- and inter-plate seismicity and arc volcanism), together with master and doctoral students, who will be supervised by Chilean and international researchers in the different disciplines of this project.

Investigation questions:

  • How is the structure and degree of fracture of the oceanic crust  versus  NC compared to SC?
  • What are the main differences in surface style, interface, and deep intraplate seismicity between NC and SC?
  • What are the differences in the seismic pattern for the recent earthquakes of thrust occurred in NC (event Iquique 2014 Mw 8.1) versus Chiloé (2016 Mw 7.6) occurred in SC?
  • Is there a difference in the tectonic structure of the upward and downward diving zones?  Is there any correlation between the roughness of the oceanic crust and the seismotectonics of the interplate boundary?
  • What are the differences in the amount of magma production and the fluids released from the slab in NC versus SC?
  • How is the tectonic control of the structure of the upper plate in the ascending magma? What is the impact of the Liquiñe-Ofqui intrarc fault system in this process?
  • How is the seismogenesis of intercalary and intermediate depth earthquakes related to the Chilean subduction zone from the perspective of the seismic cycle?What is the impact of each type of earthquake on the seismic risk?

International collaboration networks:



  • The Oregon State University
  • Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas
  • University of California, Berkeley


  • GEOMAR at University of Kiel
  • Free University of Berlin


  • Institute of Global Physics-Paris
  • University of Grenoble
  • Institut de Physique du Globe de Strasbourg


  • University of Alberta


  • University of Liverpool