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Introduction to the special issue on the 25 April 2015 Mw 7.8 Gorkha(Nepal) earthquake

November 2, 2016

On April 25, 2015, a moment magnitude (Mw) 7.8 earthquake struck central Nepal, breaking a section of the broader Himalayan Front that had been largely quiescent in moderate-to-large earthquakes for much of the modern seismological era. Ground shaking associated with the event resulted in a broad distribution of triggered avalanches and landslides. The ensuing aftershock sequence was punctuated by a Mw 7.3 event 17 days after the mainshock. The combined effects of these earthquakes and secondary hazards have led to the Gorkha earthquake becoming the worst natural disaster in Nepal since the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake, causing close to 9000 deaths and severely injuring over 21,000 people (OCHA, 2015).

Despite the devastating effects of this earthquake, the convergent margin that hosted it is thought to be capable of much larger ruptures—perhaps as large as Mw 9 (Feldl and Bilham, 2006). The 2015 Gorkha rupture lies just to the west of the 1934 M 8.0–8.4 event (Sapkota et al., 2013; Bollinger et al., 2014). Unlike the 1934 event, which has been documented in paleoseismic trenches along the Himalayan Front (e.g., Sapkota et al., 2013), and other large ruptures along the arc (e.g., Lavé et al., 2005; Kumar et al., 2006), the 2015 event did not rupture to the surface (e.g., Galetzka et al., 2015). As a result, some researchers have suggested that the Gorkha earthquake was not as large, or as damaging, as might have been expected based on our (albeit limited) understanding of historic earthquakes, seismic hazard and risk (e.g., Bilham, 2015; Hough, 2015).

Important questions surrounding the earthquake and its regional setting thus arise. What were the detailed characteristics of the rupture and the aftershock sequence, and what is the relationship between mainshock slip and subsequent seismicity? Why did this event not rupture to the surface? Was damage less than should have been expected; and if so, why? What role did path effects, such as basin amplification, play? Do details of the earthquake sequence allow us to better understand regional seismotectonics, and in turn, future risk? Discussion of these and other issues has been ongoing since the earthquake; a large body of literature already exists that characterizes details of the earthquake sequence and its effects. This special issue attempts to gather a wide variety of detailed studies that wholly characterize this event to a degree that has not yet been possible. The studies herein provide an improved understanding of the Gorkha earthquake, its impact on the region, and its place in the broader seismotectonic history of the Himalayan Front.

Publication Year 2016
Title Introduction to the special issue on the 25 April 2015 Mw 7.8 Gorkha(Nepal) earthquake
DOI 10.1016/j.tecto.2016.10.033
Authors Gavin P. Hayes, Richard W. Briggs
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Tectonophysics
Index ID 70188599
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center