Salient Features of the 2015 Gorkha, Nepal Earthquake in Relation to Earthquake Cycle and Dynamic Rupture Models

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 14:25
102 (Moscone South)
Jean Paul Ampuero, California Institute of Technology, Seismological Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
Two salient features of the 2015 Gorkha, Nepal, earthquake provide new opportunities to evaluate models of earthquake cycle and dynamic rupture.

The Gorkha earthquake broke only partially across the seismogenic depth of the Main Himalayan Thrust: its slip was confined in a narrow depth range near the bottom of the locked zone. As indicated by the belt of background seismicity and decades of geodetic monitoring, this is an area of stress concentration induced by deep fault creep. Previous conceptual models attribute such intermediate-size events to rheological segmentation along-dip, including a fault segment with intermediate rheology in between the stable and unstable slip segments. We will present results from earthquake cycle models that, in contrast, highlight the role of stress loading concentration, rather than frictional segmentation. These models produce “super-cycles” comprising recurrent characteristic events interspersed by deep, smaller non-characteristic events of overall increasing magnitude. Because the non-characteristic events are an intrinsic component of the earthquake super-cycle, the notion of Coulomb triggering or time-advance of the “big one” is ill-defined.

The high-frequency (HF) ground motions produced in Kathmandu by the Gorkha earthquake were weaker than expected for such a magnitude and such close distance to the rupture, as attested by strong motion recordings and by macroseismic data. Static slip reached close to Kathmandu but had a long rise time, consistent with control by the along-dip extent of the rupture. Moreover, the HF (1 Hz) radiation sources, imaged by teleseismic back-projection of multiple dense arrays calibrated by aftershock data, was deep and far from Kathmandu. We argue that HF rupture imaging provided a better predictor of shaking intensity than finite source inversion. The deep location of HF radiation can be attributed to rupture over heterogeneous initial stresses left by the background seismic activity. Earthquake cycle and dynamic rupture models containing deep asperities reproduce the slower spectral decay found in teleseismic spectra of the Gorkha earthquake and in subduction events in the deeper edge of the seismogenic zone.