Rock Damage Structure of the South Longmen-Shan Fault in the 2008 M8 Wenchuan Earthquake Viewed with Fault-Zone Trapped Waves and Scientific Drilling

Yong-Gang Li, Zhiguo Xu, & Haibing Li

Published 2014, SCEC Contribution #1944

This article is to review results from scientific drilling and fault-zone trapped waves (FZTWs) at the south Longman-Shan fault (LSF) zone that ruptured in the 2008 May 12 M8 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan, China. Immediately after the mainshock, two Wenchuan Fault Scientific Drilling (WFSD) boreholes were drilled at WFSD-1 and WFSD-2 sites approximately 400 m and 1 km west of the surface rupture along the Yinxiu-Beichuan fault (YBF), the middle fault strand of the south LSF zone. Two boreholes met the principal slip of Wenchuan earthquake along the YBF at depths of 589-m and 1230-m, respectively. The slip is accompanied with a 100-200-m-wide zone consisting of fault gouge, breccia, cataclasite and fractures. Close to WFSD-1 site, the nearly-vertical slip of ~4.3-m with a 190-m wide zone of highly fractured rocks restricted to the hanging wall of the YBF was found at the ground surface after the Wenchuan earthquake. A dense linear seismic array was deployed across the surface rupture at this venue to record FZTWs generated by aftershocks. Observations and 3-D finite-difference simulations of FZTWs recorded at this cross-fault array and network stations close to the YBF show a distinct low-velocity zone composed by severely damaged rocks along the south LSF at seismogenic depths. The zone is several hundred meters wide along the principal slip, within which seismic velocities are reduced by ~30–55% from wall-rock velocities and with the maximum velocity reduction in the ~200-m-wide rupture core zone at shallow depth. The FZTW-inferred geometry and physical properties of the south LSF rupture zone at shallow are in general consistent with the results from petrological and structural analyses of cores and well log at WFSD boreholes. We interpret this remarkable low-velocity zone as being a break-down zone during dynamic rupture in the 2008 M8 earthquake. We examined the FZTWS generated by similar earthquakes before and after the 2008 mainshock and observed that seismic velocities within fault core zone was reduced by ~10% due to severe damage of fault rocks during the M8 mainshock. Scientific drilling and locations of aftershocks generating prominent FZTWs also indicate rupture bifurcation along the YBF and the Anxian-Guangxian fault (AGF), two strands of the south LSF at shallow depth. A combination of seismic, petrologic and geologic study at the south LSF leads to further understand the relationship between the fault-zone structure and rupture dynamics, and the amplification of ground shaking strength along the low-velocity fault zone due to its waveguide effect.

Li, Y., Xu, Z., & Li, H. (2014). Rock Damage Structure of the South Longmen-Shan Fault in the 2008 M8 Wenchuan Earthquake Viewed with Fault-Zone Trapped Waves and Scientific Drilling. ACTA Geological Sinica (English Edition), 88(2), 444-467.