Broadband source modeling of the November 8, 1997, Tibet (Mw = 7.5) earthquake and its tectonic implications

Aaron A. Velasco, Charles J. Ammon, Susan L. Beck

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We studied the source process of a large (Ms = 7.9) intraplate earthquake that occurred on November 8, 1997, at 1002 UT in a remote region of northern Tibet. We used four distinct methods to investigate the broadband source process and thereby better understand the tectonic implications of this event. We relocated aftershocks using a master event technique and found that the distribution of aftershocks covers a region of 200 km in lateral extent. We also employed a surface wave spectral inversion technique to estimate the mainshock moment, depth, centroid location, and centroid time and utilized an empirical Green's function technique to extract rupture directivity information and a detailed source time function from observed seismograms. We also inverted body waves to estimate the moment release along the fault and the source time function. The 1997 earthquake ruptured a strike-slip fault that appears to be an extension or splay of the Kun Lun fault system. This fault is one of the most seismically active strike-slip faults within the Tibetan plateau and has had events with surface wave magnitudes of 6.1, 7.4, and 7.9 in this region since 1973. The rupture released most of the energy within the first 20 s and propagated bilaterally initially, with the later rupture propagating westward for 20-30 s. The absence of large aftershocks suggests that the earthquake efficiently released the stored strain. Comparing mainshock to the largest aftershock energy ratios for this event and other large strike-slip events shows that faulting within the plateau has the characteristics of weak faults (e.g., fracture zone faulting).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2000JB900282
Pages (from-to)28065-28080
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue numberB12
StatePublished - Dec 10 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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