4/25/2012 - Episodic creep along the Haiyuan fault, Gansu, China, revealed by InSAR


12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
1707 Geology

Presented By:
Romain Jolivet -


The Haiyuan fault system is a major left-lateral fault system bounding the tibetan plateau to the north-east. Two M~8 earthquakes ruptured that fault system in the past hundred years: the 1920, Haiyuan earthquake and the 1927, Gulang earthquake. Here, we use Synthetic Aperture Radar interferometry to explore the spatial and temporal variations of the interseismic deformation across the Haiyuan fault, over a broad (150*150 km2) area covering the 1920 rupture zone and the millennial Tianzhu seismic gap. Using a small baseline approach, we process five SAR images time series acquired by the Envisat satellite along descending and ascending orbits, spanning the 2003-2009 period. The resulting mean Line-Of-Sight velocity maps are, in overall, consistent with left-lateral motion across the fault and reveal lateral variations of the velocity gradient in the near fault zone. We invert these mean LOS velocity maps for the short-term loading rate on the fault plane at depth and for the shallow slip distribution along the seismogenic part of the fault. The short-term loading rate is about 5 mm/yr. The shallow sections of the fault, that ruptured in 1920 and the most part of the Tianzhu seismic gap are currently locked. In between, a 35~km-long section, that experiences a strong micro-seismic activity, is creeping at a mean horizontal rate of almost 5 mm/yr. However, the shallow creep rate varies along the fault strike and locally reaches values higher than the deep loading rate. This suggests temporal fluctuations of the observed aseismic slip. The comparison of InSAR-derived averaged profiles of the fault parallel velocity, spanning the 1993-1998 (ERS data) and 2003-2009 periods, suggests an upward migration of the creep over the 20 years-long observation period. A time series analysis on the Envisat dataset using a temporal smoothing reveals a creep rate increase during the year 2007. This rate increase follows and may have been triggered by a Ml 4.7 earthquake that occurred on the creeping patch. We finally investigate the relationship between the spatio-temporal evolution of the surface creep and the roughness of the surface fault trace with a multiscale analysis. We show the control of the elastic properties of the brittle crust on the fault roughness, that in turn exerts a direct control on the surface aseismic slip distribution. The aseismic slip is made of locally interacting bursts that follow a power law, somehow similar to the Gutenberg-Richter law for earthquakes.

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