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Paleoseismological evidence of surface faulting along the northeastern Himalayan front, India: Timing, size, and spatial extent of great earthquakes

Kumar, Senthil and Wesnousky, Steven G and Jayangondaperumal, R and Nakata, T and Kumahara, Y and Singh, Vimal (2010) Paleoseismological evidence of surface faulting along the northeastern Himalayan front, India: Timing, size, and spatial extent of great earthquakes. In: Journal of Geophysical Research, 115 (B12422).

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Abstract

The similar to 2500 km long Himalayan arc has experienced three large to great earthquakes of M-w 7.8 to 8.4 during the past century, but none produced surface rupture. Paleoseismic studies have been conducted during the last decade to begin understanding the timing, size, rupture extent, return period, and mechanics of the faulting associated with the occurrence of large surface rupturing earthquakes along the similar to 2500 km long Himalayan Frontal Thrust (HFT) system of India and Nepal. The previous studies have been limited to about nine sites along the western two-thirds of the HFT extending through northwest India and along the southern border of Nepal. We present here the results of paleoseismic investigations at three additional sites further to the northeast along the HFT within the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam. The three sites reside between the meizoseismal areas of the 1934 Bihar-Nepal and 1950 Assam earthquakes. The two westernmost of the sites, near the village of Chalsa and near the Nameri Tiger Preserve, show that offsets during the last surface rupture event were at minimum of about 14 m and 12 m, respectively. Limits on the ages of surface rupture at Chalsa (site A) and Nameri (site B), though broad, allow the possibility that the two sites record the same great historical rupture reported in Nepal around A.D. 1100. The correlation between the two sites is supported by the observation that the large displacements as recorded at Chalsa and Nameri would most likely be associated with rupture lengths of hundreds of kilometers or more and are on the same order as reported for a surface rupture earthquake reported in Nepal around A.D. 1100. Assuming the offsets observed at Chalsa and Nameri occurred synchronously with reported offsets in Nepal, the rupture length of the event would approach 700 to 800 km. The easternmost site is located within Harmutty Tea Estate (site C) at the edges of the 1950 Assam earthquake meizoseismal area. Here the most recent event offset is relatively much smaller (<2.5 m), and radiocarbon dating shows it to have occurred after A.D. 1100 (after about A.D. 1270). The location of the site near the edge of the meizoseismal region of the 1950 Assam earthquake and the relatively lesser offset allows speculation that the displacement records the 1950 M-w 8.4 Assam earthquake. Scatter in radiocarbon ages on detrital charcoal has not resulted in a firm bracket on the timing of events observed in the trenches. Nonetheless, the observations collected here, when taken together, suggest that the largest of thrust earthquakes along the Himalayan arc have rupture lengths and displacements of similar scale to the largest that have occurred historically along the world's subduction zones.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to American Geophysical Union.
Department/Centre: Division of Mechanical Sciences > Centre for Earth Sciences
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2011 09:03
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2011 09:03
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/id/eprint/36015

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