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Paleoseismological study of the southern Zongwulong Shan fault, Qilian Mountains, western China

Shao, Yanxiu, Li, Zhimin, Zhang, Bo, Wang, Pengtao, Yuan, Daoyang, Wu, Ming
Geomorphology 2019 v.326 pp. 107-115
earthquakes, geophysics, loess, mountains, risk, China
The Tibetan plateau is prone to destructive earthquakes. A number of strong thrust events occurred in the recent past, seeming to migrate from south to north, to the Qilian Mountains area. Many active thrust faults are known in the Qilian Mountains, and most of them are capable of producing large earthquakes. Here we study the southern Zongwulong Shan (shan means mountain) fault that lacks any paleoseismology studies so far. This fault is the eastern boundary of the Qaidam and Qilian blocks, posing a threat to the populated area of Delingha in western China. In this paper, we document its Holocene rupture history based on paleoseismic trenches, and we assess the seismic risk in this area. We excavated two trenches across 4.5±0.5m high fault scarps in alluvial fans. We found ruptures that affect young alluvial units and almost penetrate the top thick loess unit. We show that four paleoearthquakes occurred in the Holocene with an average recurrence interval of 2300±500years. The most recent event happened between 272BCE and 572CE. Three older events probably occurred in the past 9.5±0.8ka.