Shallow geological structures triggered during the Mw 6.4 Meinong earthquake, southwestern Taiwan

  • We document subtle ground surface rupture across paved roads along 5.5 km distance
  • New balanced cross-sections show a set of 3 active back-thrust and an active ramp
  • We identify shallow structures that were or may have been activated in the earthquake

The Meinong earthquake generated up to ~10 cm surface displacement located 10 - 35 km west of the epicenter and monitored by InSAR and GPS. In addition to coseismic deformation related to the deep earthquake source, InSAR revealed three sharp surface displacement gradients. One of them is extensional and is inconsistent with the westward interseismic shortening of ~45 mm yr-1 in this region. The gradient sharpness suggests slip triggering on shallow structures, some of which were not well documented before. To characterize these shallow structures, we investigated potential surface ruptures in the field. Sets of ~NS tension cracks distributed over 25 - 300 m width, with cumulative extension in the same order as InSAR observations, were found along 5.5 km distance along the extensional gradient and are interpreted as surface rupture. We build two E-W regional balanced cross-sections, based on surface geology, subsurface data, and coseismic and interseismic geodetic data. From the Coastal Plain to the east edge of the coseismic deformation area, we propose a series of three active west-dipping backthrusts: the Houchiali fault, the Napalin-Pitou backthrust, and the Lungchuan backthrust. They all root on the 3.5 - 4.0 km deep Tainan detachment located near the base of the 3-km-thick Gutingkeng mudstone. Further east, the detachment would ramp down to ~7 km depth. Coseismic surface deformation measurements suggest that, in addition to the deeper (15 - 20 km) main rupture plane, mostly the ramp, the Lungchuan backthrust, and the Tainan detachment were activated during or right after the earthquake. Local extension is considered as transient deformation at the west edge of the shallow main slip zone.

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