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Published March 2003 | Published
Journal Article Open

Evidence for fault lubrication during the 1999 Chi-Chi, Taiwan, earthquake (Mw7.6)


The ground motion data of the 1999 Chi-Chi, Taiwan, earthquake exhibit a striking difference in frequency content between the north and south portions of the rupture zone. In the north, the ground motion is dominated by large low-frequency displacements with relatively small high-frequency accelerations. The pattern is opposite in the south, with smaller displacements and larger accelerations. We analyze the fault dynamics in light of a fault lubrication mechanism using near-field seismograms and a detailed rupture model. The fault zone contains viscous material (e.g., gouge), in which pressure increases following the Reynolds lubrication equation. When the displacement exceeds a threshold, lubrication pressure becomes high enough to widen the gap, thereby reducing the area of asperity contact. With less asperity contact, the fault slips more smoothly, suppressing high-frequency radiation.

Additional Information

Copyright 2003 by the American Geophysical Union. Received 25 April 2002; revised 19 July 2002; accepted 27 December 2002; published 13 March 2003. We are grateful to the Central Weather Bureau, Taiwan, for providing excellent strong motion records. The suggestions of two anonymous reviewers have been very helpful. This work was supported by National Science Council grant: NSC90-2119-M-008-015.

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