Insight into the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake from GPS measurements in southeast Asia

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Data collected at 60 Global Positioning System (GPS) sites in southeast Asia show the crustal deformation caused by the 26 December 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake at an unprecedented large scale. Small but significant co-seismic jumps are clearly detected more than 3,000 km from the earthquake epicentre. The nearest sites, still more than 400 km away, show displacements of 10 cm or more. Here we show that the rupture plane for this earthquake must have been at least 1,000 km long and that non-homogeneous slip is required to fit the large displacement gradients revealed by the GPS measurements. Our kinematic analysis of the GPS recordings indicates that the centroid of released deformation is located at least 200 km north of the seismological epicentre. It also provides evidence that the rupture propagated northward sufficiently fast for stations in northern Thailand to have reached their final positions less than 10 min after the earthquake, hence ruling out the hypothesis of a silent slow aseismic rupture.

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Figure 1: Co-seismic displacement field derived from GPS observations at more than 60 sites.
Figure 2: Elastic modelling of co-seismic deformation.
Figure 3: Best-fit elastic model of the co-seismic displacements using non-homogeneous slip along the rupture plane.
Figure 4: Kinematic solution of the co-seismic displacements for 33 continuous GPS stations in southeast Asia.
Figure 5: Pre- and post-seismic position variations derived from GPS observations at selected stations.
Figure 6: Five-day post-seismic displacement field.


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Thanks are extended to the different national agencies (DSMM, RTSD, BAKOSURTANAL) for sharing their regional GPS data in the framework of the SEAMERGES ( project. We also thank M. Hashizume for contributing Thai data collected by Chulalongkorn University in cooperation with the ‘Frontier Observational Research System for Global Change’ (FRONTIER) project and the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo; and we thank the Dutch research programme Integrated Solid Earth Science (ISES), the French Institut National des Sciences de l'Univers (INSU-CNRS) and the French ministry of foreign affairs (MAE) for providing equipment and financial support. Our sympathy is extended to the relatives of the Phuket GPS station operator who is still reported missing after the tsunami disaster. SEAMERGES has been funded by the ASEAN-EU University Network Programme (AUNP). The contents of this paper are the sole responsibility of the authors listed and cannot be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

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Correspondence to C. Vigny.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Table S1

Co-seismic displacements. Eight columns giving each site longitude and latitude (in decimal degrees), east and north displacement (in mm), east and north 1-sigma values (again in mm), horizontal components correlation, and site name. This is the standard GMT format. (TXT 5 kb)

Supplementary Table S2

Five-days post-seismic displacements. Eight columns giving each site longitude and latitude (in decimal degrees), east and north displacement (in mm), east and north 1-sigma values (again in mm), horizontal components correlation, and site name. This is the standard GMT format. (TXT 4 kb)

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Vigny, C., Simons, W., Abu, S. et al. Insight into the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake from GPS measurements in southeast Asia. Nature 436, 201–206 (2005) doi:10.1038/nature03937

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