Seismic velocity recovery in the subsurface: transient damage and groundwater drainage following the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, Nepal

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: This is version 2 of this Preprint.


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Luc Illien , Christoph Sens-Schönfelder, Christoph Andermann, Odin Marc, Kristen L. Cook, Lok Bijaya Adhikari, Niels Hovius


Shallow earthquakes frequently disturb the hydrological and mechanical state of the subsurface, with consequences for hazard and water management. Transient post-seismic hydrological behaviour has been widely reported, suggesting that the recovery of material properties (relaxation) following ground shaking may impact groundwater fluctuations. However, the monitoring of seismic velocity variations associated with earthquake damage and hydrological variations are often done assuming that both effects are independent. In a field site prone to highly variable hydrological conditions, we disentangle the different forcing of the relative seismic velocity variations $\delta v$ retrieved from a small dense seismic array in Nepal in the aftermath of the 2015 Mw 7.8 Gorkha earthquake. We successfully model transient damage effects by introducing a universal relaxation function that contains a unique maximum relaxation timescale for the main shock and the aftershocks, independent of the ground shaking levels. Next, we remove the modeled velocity from the raw data and test whether the corresponding residuals agree with a background hydrological behaviour we inferred from a previously calibrated groundwater model. The fitting of the $\delta v$ data with this model is improved when we introduce transient hydrological properties in the phase immediately following the
main shock. This transient behaviour, interpreted as an enhanced permeability in the shallow subsurface, lasts for $\sim$ 6 months and is shorter than the damage relaxation ($\sim$ 1 year). Thus, we demonstrate the capability of seismic interferometry to deconvolve transient hydrological properties after earthquakes from non-linear mechanical recovery.



Geophysics and Seismology, Other Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


earthquake damage, earthquake hydrology, Gorkha earthquake, Seismic interferometry, Ambient noise, slow dynamics, relaxation


Published: 2022-01-04 11:19

Last Updated: 2022-01-04 17:57

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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