We carried out morphotectonic studies along the left-lateral strike-slip Bogd Fault, the principal structure involved in the Gobi-Altay earthquake of 1957 December 4 (published magnitudes range from 7.8 to 8.3). The Bogd Fault is 260 km long and can be subdivided into ﬁve main geometric segments, based on variation in strike direction. West to East these segments are, respectively: the West Ih Bogd (WIB), The North Ih Bogd (NIB), the West Ih Bogd (WIB), the West Baga Bogd (WBB) and the East Baga Bogd (EBB) segments. Morphological analysis of offset streams, ridges and alluvial fans—particularly well preserved in the arid environment of the Gobi region—allows evaluation of late Quaternary slip rates along the different faults segments. In this paper, we measure slip rates over the past 200 ka at four sites distributed across the three western segments of the Bogd Fault. Our results show that the left-lateral slip rate is∼1 mm yr–1 along the WIB and EIB segments and∼0.5 mm yr–1 along the NIB segment. These variations are consistent with the restraining bend geometry of the Bogd Fault.
Our study also provides additional estimates of the horizontal offset associated with the 1957 earthquake along the western part of the Bogd rupture, complementing previously published studies. We show that the mean horizontal offset associated with the 1957 earthquake decreases progressively from 5.2 m in the west to 2.0 m in the east, reﬂecting the progressive change of kinematic style from pure left-lateral strike-slip faulting to left-lateral-reverse faulting. Along the three western segments, we measure cumulative displacements that are multiples of the 1957 coseismic offset, which may be consistent with a characteristic slip. Moreover, using these data, we re-estimate the moment magnitude of the Gobi-Altay earthquake at Mw 7.78–7.95.
Combining our slip rate estimates and the slip distribution per event we also determined a mean recurrence interval of∼2500–5200 yr for past earthquakes along the different segments of the western Bogd Fault. This suggests that the three western segments of the Bogd Fault and the Gurvan Bulag thrust fault (a reverse fault bounding the southern side of the Ih Bogd range that ruptured during the 1957 earthquake) have similar average recurrence times, and therefore may have ruptured together in previous earthquakes as they did in 1957. These results suggest that the western part of the Bogd Fault system, including the Gurvan Bulag thrust fault, usually behaves in a ‘characteristic earthquake’ mode.