Indexed on: 17 Jun '16Published on: 16 Jun '16Published in: Tectonophysics
We analyze time series from continuously recording GPS stations in Nepal spanning the pre- and post-seismic period associated to the Mw7.8Mw7.8 Gorkha earthquake which ruptured the Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT) fault on April 25th, 2015. The records show strong seasonal variations due to surface hydrology. After corrections for these variations, the time series covering the pre- and post-seismic periods do not show any detectable transient pre-seismic displacement. By contrast, a transient post-seismic signal is clear. The observed signal shows southward displacements consistent with afterslip on the MHT. Using additional data from stations deployed after the mainshock, we invert the time series for the spatio-temporal evolution of slip on the MHT. This modelling indicates afterslip dominantly downdip of the mainshock rupture. Two other regions show significant afterslip: a more minor zone updip of the rupture, and a region between the mainshock and the largest aftershock ruptures. Afterslip in the first ~ 7 months after the mainshock released a moment of [12.8 ± 0.5] × 1019 Nm which represents 17.8 ± 0.8% of the co-seismic moment. The moment released by aftershocks over that period of time is estimated to 2.98 × 1019 Nm. Geodetically observed post-seismic deformation after co-seismic offset correction was thus 76.7 ± 1.0% aseismic. The logarithmic time evolution of afterslip is consistent with rate-strengthening frictional sliding. According to this theory, and assuming a long-term loading velocity modulated on the basis of the coupling map of the region and the long term slip rate of 20.2 ± 1.1 mm/yr, afterslip should release about 34.0 ± 1.4% of the co-seismic moment after full relaxation of post-seismic deformation. Afterslip contributed to loading the shallower portion of the MHT which did not rupture in 2015 and stayed locked afterwards. The risk for further large earthquakes in Nepal remains high both updip of the rupture area of the Gorkha earthquake and West of Kathmandu where the MHT has remained locked and where no earthquake larger than Mw7.5Mw7.5 has occurred since 1505.