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Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 395–402 | Cite as

The origin of the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake determined by the analysis on the active Longmenshan nappe in terms of rockmass mechanics

  • Zhixin Yan
  • Guozhe MaEmail author
  • Binxiang Yuan
  • Fujun Niu
Article

Abstract

On 12 May 2008, the magnitude 8.0 Wenchuan Earthquake occurred along the Longmen Shan nappe, Sichuan, China. This devastating earthquake led to a heavy death toll of greater than 80,000. The seismic origin of this earthquake is currently hotly debated. We suppose that it is a special type of intraplate earthquake called an activenappe-type earthquake. Using a holistic methodology, incorporating rockmass structure cybernetics and Byerlee’s law, we present a comprehensive study on the geological origin of macroseisms in the Longmen Shan area and the seismic origin of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Previous studies of neotectonic activity indicate that the Longmen Shan nappe moves at a rate of 1∼3 mm/yr, due to horizontal compressive stress from the Tibetan Plateau. The difference between movement rates in the Bayankala block, Longmen Shan nappe and Sichuan Basin cause slow shear stress and strain accumulation in the Longmen Shan nappe. It is exhibited a relatively simple linear relations for the shear strength and the buried depth of the structural planes, and the detachment layer of the nappe has a higher shearing-sliding strength compared to the overlying fault planes and the underlying ductile shear belts, thus making it more prone to stick-slip deformation. Therefore, the detachment layer was the main section responsible for the Wenchuan earthquake. The initial rupture burst in the detachment layer under the Yingxiu-Beichuan fault, the rupture area nearly 1.4454 × 104 km2, encompassed the cross point of the Yingxiu and the Anxian-Guanxian faults with the detachment layer, then caused the Yingxiu — Beichuan and Anxian-Guanxian faults took an active part in this earthquake, so this earthquake might consist of three chain-like earthquake stages, totally increasing the duration of this earthquake an unusually large amount, to 120 s. The focal depth spanned range of 10–20km, consistent with the observed result of this focal depth by several agencies.

Keywords

Active nappe Rockmass structure cybernetics Shear-slip failure Wenchuan earthquake Seismicorigin 

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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhixin Yan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guozhe Ma
    • 1
    Email author
  • Binxiang Yuan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fujun Niu
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Civil Engineering and MechanicsLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Mechanics on Western Disaster and Environment Ministry of Education, ChinaLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academic of ScienceLanzhouChina

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