The 2015 Mw7.2 Sarez Strike-Slip Earthquake in the Pamir Interior: Response to the Underthrusting of India's Western Promontory

Sabrina Metzger, Bernd Schurr, Lothar Ratschbacher, Henriette Sudhaus, Sofia Katerina Kufner, Tilo Schöne, Yong Zhang, Mason Perry, Rebecca Bendick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Pamir orogen, Central Asia, is the result of the ongoing northward advance of the Indian continent causing shortening inside Asia. Geodetic and seismic data place the most intense deformation along the northern rim of the Pamir, but the recent 7 December 2015, Mw7.2 Sarez earthquake occurred in the Pamir's interior. We present a distributed slip model of this earthquake using coseismic geodetic data and postseismic field observations. The earthquake ruptured an ∼80 km long, subvertical, sinistral fault consisting of three right-stepping segments from the surface to ∼30 km depth with a maximum slip of three meters in the upper 10 km of the crust. The coseismic slip model agrees well with en échelon secondary surface breaks that are partly influenced by liquefaction-induced mass movements. These structures reveal up to 2 m of sinistral offset along the northern, low-offset segment of modeled rupture. The 2015 event initiated close to the presumed epicenter of the 1911 Mw∼7.3 Lake Sarez earthquake, which had a similar strike-slip mechanism. These earthquakes highlight the importance of NE trending sinistral faults in the active tectonics of the Pamir. Strike-slip deformation accommodates shear between the rapidly northward moving eastern Pamir and the Tajik basin in the west and is part of the westward (lateral) extrusion of thickened Pamir plateau crust into the Tajik basin. The Sarez-Karakul fault system and the two large Sarez earthquakes likely are crustal expressions of the underthrusting of the northwestern leading edge of the Indian mantle lithosphere beneath the Pamir.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2407-2421
Number of pages15
JournalTectonics
Volume36
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Keywords

  • InSAR/GPS
  • active tectonics
  • slip model

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