Did the Zipingpu Reservoir trigger the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake?

Geophysical Research Letters
By: , and 



The devastating May 2008 Wenchuan earthquake (Mw 7.9) resulted from thrust of the Tibet Plateau on the Longmen Shan fault zone, a consequence of the Indo-Asian continental collision. Many have speculated on the role played by the Zipingpu Reservoir, impounded in 2005 near the epicenter, in triggering the earthquake. This study evaluates the stress changes in response to the impoundment of the Zipingpu Reservoir and assesses their impact on the Wenchuan earthquake. We show that the impoundment could have changed the Coulomb stress by -0.01 to 0.05 MPa at locations and depth consistent with reported hypocenter positions. This level of stress change has been shown to be significant in triggering earthquakes on critically stressed faults. Because the loading rate on the Longmen Shan fault is <0.005 MPa/yr, we thus suggest that the Zipingpu Reservoir potentially hastened the occurrence of the Wenchuan earthquake by tens to hundreds of years. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Did the Zipingpu Reservoir trigger the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake?
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1029/2009GL040349
Volume 36
Issue 20
Year Published 2009
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Geophysical Research Letters
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