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Science. 2003 Aug 8;301(5634):824-6.

Observation of long supershear rupture during the magnitude 8.1 Kunlunshan earthquake.

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  • 1Université Joseph Fourier and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire de Géophysique Interne et Tectonophysique, Boîte postale 53, 38041 Grenoble, France.


The 2001 Kunlunshan earthquake was an extraordinary event that produced a 400-km-long surface rupture. Regional broadband recordings of this event provide an opportunity to accurately observe the speed at which a fault ruptures during an earthquake, which has important implications for seismic risk and for understanding earthquake physics. We determined that rupture propagated on the 400-km-long fault at an average speed of 3.7 to 3.9 km/s, which exceeds the shear velocity of the brittle part of the crust. Rupture started at sub-Rayleigh wave velocity and became supershear, probably approaching 5 km/s, after about 100 km of propagation.

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