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Rupture imaging of the Mw 79 12 May 2008 Wenchuan earthquake from back projection of teleseismic P-waves



Rupture imaging of the Mw 79 12 May 2008 Wenchuan earthquake from back projection of teleseismic P-waves



Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems - G3 10.4



The M(w) 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake of 12 May 2008 was the most destructive Chinese earthquake since the 1976 Tangshan event. Tens of thousands of people were killed, hundreds of thousands were injured, and millions were left homeless. Here we infer the detailed rupture process of the Wenchuan earthquake by back-projecting teleseismic P energy from several arrays of seismometers. This technique has only recently become feasible and is potentially faster than traditional finite-fault inversion of teleseismic body waves; therefore, it may reduce the notification time to emergency response agencies. Using the IRIS DMC, we collected 255 vertical component broadband P waves at 30-95 degrees from the epicenter. We found that at periods of 5 s and greater, nearly all of these P waves were coherent enough to be used in a global array. We applied a simple down-sampling heuristic to define a global subarray of 70 stations that reduced the asymmetry and sidelobes of the array response function (ARF). We also considered three regional subarrays of seismometers in Alaska, Australia, and Europe that had apertures less than 30 degrees and P waves that were coherent to periods as short as 1 s. Individual ARFs for these subarrays were skewed toward the subarrays; however, the linear sum of the regional subarray beams at 1 s produced a symmetric ARF, similar to that of the groomed global subarray at 5 s. For both configurations we obtained the same rupture direction, rupture length, and rupture time. We found that the Wenchuan earthquake had three distinct pulses of high beam power at 0, 23, and 57 s after the origin time, with the pulse at 23 s being highest, and that it ruptured unilaterally to the northeast for about 300 km and 110 s, with an average speed of 2.8 km/s. It is possible that similar results can be determined for future large dip-slip earthquakes within 20-30 min of the origin time using relatively sparse global networks of seismometers such as those the USGS uses to locate earthquakes in near-real time.

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