Strong aftershocks in the northern segment of the Wenchuan earthquake rupture zone and their seismotectonic implications

Yong Zheng*, Sidao Ni, Zujun Xie, Jian Lv, Hongsheng Ma, Paul Sommerville

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


More than 28,000 aftershocks have occurred since the 05/12/2008 Wenchuan earthquake, with dozens of them stronger than M 5. Since July, 2008, all the Af > 5 earthquakes have occurred only in the northern segment of the rupture zone, suggesting obvious seismicity segmentation. We applied the double difference method to relocate all of the M > 3 aftershocks. After relocation, the aftershocks show a compact zone of seismicity, with a length of about 300 km and average width of 30 km, supporting that the hypothesis that the Beichuan-Yingxiu and Chaping-Linjiaan faults are the faults that ruptured in the earthquake. With the Cut and Paste (CAP) waveform inversion algorithm, we determined the source mechanism and focal depth of all the > M 5 aftershocks in the northern segments. The number of thrust events is close to the number of strike-slip events, but almost all of the events with thrust mechanism are distributed over the northern segment, while the aftershocks with strike-slip mechanism only occurred at the north-easternmost end, contrasting with field observations of a substantial strikeslip component of surface rupture over the northern segment. The events with strike-slip mechanism occurred at depths up to 18 km, consistent with the lack of surface rupture in the north-easternmost section. However, since early August, very shallow events (2 km) with thrust mechanism have occurred, probably releasing the strain energy of the unruptured fault in the north-easternmost section. It seems that the seismic hazard potential of the northern segment is still quite high, and more studies are needed to resolve some of the discrepancy suggested by aftershock patterns and other observations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-886
Number of pages6
JournalEarth, Planets and Space
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aftershock
  • Cut and paste method
  • Focal depth
  • Seismicity segmentation
  • Source mechanism


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