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A geological and geophysical context for the Wenchuan earthquake of 12 May 2008, Sichuan, People's Republic of China

Date: 2017-09-25      View counts: 2106    


Burchfiel B C, Royden L H, Hilst R D V D, et al
Gsa Today
Investigation on earthquake disaster
Paper Keyword
geology; geophysics; Wenchuan; earthquake
"On 12 May 2008, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake ruptured the Longmen Shan margin of the eastern Tibetan plateau. This event occurred within the context of long-term uplift and eastward enlargement of the plateau. The area has numerous geological features not typical of active convergent mountain belts, including the presence of a steep mountain front (>4 km relief) but an absence of large-magnitude low-angle thrust faults; young high topography (post ca. 15 Ma) and thickened crust but low global positioning system (GPS) shortening rates (<3 mm/yr); and no coeval foreland subsidence. In our interpretation, crustal thickening beneath the eastern Tibetan plateau occurred without large-scale shortening of the upper crust but instead is caused by ductile thickening of the deep crust in a weak (lowviscosity) layer. Late Cenozoic shortening across the Longmen Shan could be as little as 10–20 km, with folding and faulting mainly accommodating differential surface uplift between the plateau and the Sichuan Basin. The earthquake of 12 May probably reflects long-term uplift, with slow convergence and right-slip, of the eastern plateau relative to the Sichuan Basin. GPS-determined rates in the vicinity of the 12 May event suggest an average recurrence interval of ~2,000–10,000 yr.
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