I am a large believer in hydroelectric power. I think we need to do more of it, even at the expense of some frogs and such.
However, is there a larger price to be paid for some of these dams?
Abstract Two and a half years prior to China’s M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake of May
2008, at least 300 million metric tons of water accumulated with additional seasonal water level changes in the Minjiang River Valley at the eastern margin of the Longmen Shan. This article shows that static surface loading in the Zipingpu water reservoir in- duced Coulomb failure stresses on the nearby Beichuan thrust fault system at <17km depth. Triggering stresses exceeded levels of daily lunar and solar tides and perturbed a fault area measuring 416±96km2 . These stress perturbations, in turn, likely ad- vanced the clock of the mainshock and directed the initial rupture propagation upward towards the reservoir on the ”Coulomb-like” Beichuan fault with rate-and-state de- pendent frictional behavior. Static triggering perturbations produced up to 60 years (0.6%) of equivalent tectonic loading, and show strong correlations to the coseismic slip. Moreover, correlations between clock advancement and coseismic slip, observed during the mainshock beneath the reservoir, are strongest for a longer seismic cycle (10kyr) of M>7 earthquakes. Finally, the daily event rate of the micro-seismicity (M≥ 0.5) correlates well with the static stress perturbations, indicating destabilization.
Keywords Earthquake · Geomechanics · Geoengineering · Triggered Earthquakes ·
Water Reservoir · Tides · Sun · Moon · Gravitation · Seismology
The Wenchuan earthquake of May 12, 2008 occurred in the Sichuan province of the People’s Republic of China. This M7.9 event ruptured along the border of the Longmen Shan margin of the Tibetan plateau in the West and the Sichuan basin in the East. The earthquake’s nucleation point was at Long=103.364 and Lat=30.986 at about 16 km depth. The epicentral error is 5 km and the focal depth estimation error is 10 to 15 km (Huang et al. 2008).
The Beichuan fault system, consisting of listric and NNW dipping reverse faults, broke 250-300 km parallel along the Longmen Shan thrust belt (Fig. 1) (Burchfiel Christian D. Klose Think Geohazards, New York, USA E-mail: email@example.com
et al. 1995). This intra-continental region has been extensively studied both prior to and after the M7.9 earthquake in 2008, including a) paleo-seismicity studies (Burchfiel et al. 1995; Densmore et al. 2007; Zhang et al. 2009; Zhou et al. 2007; Burchfiel et al. 1995; Chen et al. 1994), b) instrumental recordings of the seismicity prior to and after the mainshock (1970-2009) (Hu 2007; Lei et al. 2008), c) inversion data analyses of teleseismic body waves of the mainshock (Wang et al. 2008a; Zhang et al. 2009), d) studies on coseismic ground deformations (Lin et al. 2008; Zhang et al. 2009). Finally, the trigger mechanism of the 2008 M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake has been debated since the earthquake’s occurrence (Klose 2008; Lei et al. 2008). Some studies suggest that the mainshock might have been triggered by pore pressure diffusion within the earth’s crust resulting from a nearby artificial lake, the Zipingpu water reservoir (Lei et al. 2008; Ge et al. 2009). Other studies reject the hypothesis of triggering due to pore pressure diffusion (Deng et al. 2010; Gahalaut and Gahalaut 2010). It can be anticipated that the earthquake cycle was already in its late stage in 2005 and close to failure conditions, because the Wenchuan earthquake ruptured in 2008. But, did the surface loading affect the earthquake cycle and the initial rupture? How many years of equivalent tectonic loading would the artificial loading advance the clock of the mainshock and how much of the coseismic slip would it produce?
This study shows that observations and data modeling support the initial argument that lithostatic stress changes and the poroelastic response of the earth’s crust due to the weight of the Zipingpu reservoir on the earth’s crust most likely triggered the 2008
M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake (Klose 2008). The article provides further evidence that a) surface loading due to water mass accumulations within the Zipingpu water reservoir in the Minjiang River Valley between 2005 and 2008 induced Coulomb failure stress changes in the earth’s crust and b) triggering stress perturbations beneath the artificial lake likely advanced the clock of the Wenchuan earthquake, while affecting the initial rupture propagation. Furthermore, the water reservoir impounding generated static triggering stress perturbations in the earth’s crust beginning in 2005 that biased daily stress alterations due to tidal elongations of the moon and the sun. Furthermore, it could have changed the natural earthquake cycle and advanced the clock of the 2008
Wenchuan earthquake by several decades.
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