Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Slip zone and energetics of a large earthquake from the Taiwan Chelungpu-fault Drilling Project


Determining the seismic fracture energy during an earthquake and understanding the associated creation and development of a fault zone requires a combination of both seismological and geological field data1. The actual thickness of the zone that slips during the rupture of a large earthquake is not known and is a key seismological parameter in understanding energy dissipation, rupture processes and seismic efficiency. The 1999 magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Chi-Chi, Taiwan, produced large slip (8 to 10 metres) at or near the surface2, which is accessible to borehole drilling and provides a rare opportunity to sample a fault that had large slip in a recent earthquake. Here we present the retrieved cores from the Taiwan Chelungpu-fault Drilling Project and identify the main slip zone associated with the Chi-Chi earthquake. The surface fracture energy estimated from grain sizes in the gouge zone of the fault sample was directly compared to the seismic fracture energy determined from near-field seismic data3,4. From the comparison, the contribution of gouge surface energy to the earthquake breakdown work is quantified to be 6 per cent.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Location, core images and polished primary slip zone.
Figure 2: Particle size in the major slip zone.
Figure 3: The slip-weakening curve for the fault block corresponds to the borehole site.
Figure 4: The ratio of radiated energy to the summation of the radiated and surface energy as a function of the ratio of fault thickness ( T ) to total fault displacement ( D).


  1. 1

    Kanamori, H. The diversity of the physics of earthquakes. Proc. Jpn. Acad. 80, 297–316 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Ma, K-F. et al. The Chi-Chi, Taiwan earthquake: large surface displacements on an inland thrust fault. Eos 80, 605 (1999)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Ma, K-F. et al. Spatial and temporal distribution of slip for the 1999 Chi-Chi, Taiwan earthquake. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 91, 1069–1087 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Ji, C. et al. Slip history dynamic implications of the 1999 Chi-Chi, Taiwan, earthquake. J. Geophys. Res. 108 2412 doi: 10.1029/2002JB001764 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Yue, L. F., Suppe, J. & Hung, J-H. Structure geology of a classic thrust belt earthquake: the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake Taiwan (Mw=7.6). J. Struct. Geol. 27, 2058–2083 (2005)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Wang, C-Y. Detection of a recent earthquake fault by the shallow reflection seismic method. Geophysics 67, 1465–1473 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Wang, C-Y., Li, C-L. & Yen, H-Y. Mapping the northern portion of the Chelungpu fault, Taiwan by shallow reflection seismics. Geophys. Res. Lett. 29 doi: 10.1029/2001GL014496 (2002)

  8. 8

    Heermance, R., Shipton, Z. K. & Evans, J. P. Fault structure control on fault slip and ground motion during the 1999 rupture of the Chelungpu fault, Taiwan. Seismol. Soc. Am. Bull. 93, 1034–1050 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Tanaka, H. et al. Initial science report of shallow drilling penetrating into the Chelungpu fault zone, Taiwan. Terr. Atmos. Ocean. Sci. 113, 227–251 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Sibson, R. H. Thickness of the seismic slip zone. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 93, 1169–1178 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Tanaka, H. et al. Whole fault zone architecture and its relation to thin slip layer activated by 1995 Kobe earthquake detected at 1140 m depth in the drilled core penetrating the Nojima fault. J. Geophys. Res. (submitted).

  12. 12

    Gratier, J-P., Favreau, P. & Renard, F. Modeling fluid transfer along California faults when integrating pressure solution crack sealing and compaction process. J. Geophys. Res. 108 doi: 10.1029/2001JB000380 (2003)

  13. 13

    Chester, J. S., Chester, F. M. & Kronenberg, A. K. Fracture surface energy of the Punchbowl Fault, San Andreas system. Nature 437, 133–136 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Sammis, C., King, G. & Biegel, R. The kinematics of gouge deformation. Pure Appl. Geophys. 125, 777–812 (1987)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Otsuki, K., Monzawa, N. & Nagase, T. Fluidization and melting of fault gouge during seismic slip: Identification in the Nojima fault zone and implications for focal earthquake mechanisms. J. Geophys. Res. 108, B4 2192 doi: 10.1029/2001JB001711 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Kadono, T. et al. Surface roughness of alumina fragments caused by hypervelocity impact. Planet. Space Sci. 54, 212–215 (2006)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Scholz, C. H. in The Mechanics of Earthquakes and Faulting 158–167 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2002)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Lawn, B. Fracture of Brittle Solids 2nd edn 1–378 (Cambridge Univ. Press, New York, 1993)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    McGarr, A., Spottiswoode, S. M. & Gay, N. C. Observations relevant to seismic driving stress, stress drop, and efficiency. J. Geophys. Res. 84, 2251–2261 (1979)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Wilson, B., Dewers, T., Reches, Z. & Brune, J. Particle size and energetics of gouge from earthquake rupture zones. Nature 434, 749–752 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Andrews, D. J. Test of two methods for faulting in finite-difference calculations. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 89, 4931–4937 (1999)

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Tinti, E., Spudich, P. & Cocco, M. Earthquake fracture energy inferred from kinematic rupture models on extended faults. J. Geophys. Res. 110, B12303 doi:10.1029/2005JB003644. (2005)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Zhang, W. B. et al. Heterogeneous distribution of the dynamic source parameters of the 1999 Chi-Chi, Taiwan, earthquake. J. Geophys. Res. 108 doi: 10.1029/2002JB001889 (2003)

  24. 24

    Abercrombie, R. E. & Rice, J. R. Can observation of earthquake scaling constrain slip weakening? Geophys. J. Int. 162, 406–424 (2005)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Wibberley, C. A. J. & Shimamoto, T. Earthquake slip weakening and asperities explained by thermal pressurization. Nature 436, 689–692 (2005)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Tanaka, H. et al. Frictional heat from faulting of the 1999 Chi-Chi, Taiwan earthquake. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33 doi: 10.1029/2006GL026673 (2006)

  27. 27

    Brodsky, E. & Kanamori, H. Elastohydrodynamic lubrication of faults. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 16357–16373 (2001)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Ma, K-F. et al. Evidence for fault lubrication during the 1999 Chi-Chi, Taiwan, earthquake (Mw7.6). Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 1244 doi:10.1029/2002GL015380. (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Husseini, M. I. & Randall, M. J. Rupture velocity and radiation efficiency. Seismol. Soc. Am. Bull. 660, 1173–1187 (1976)

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Venkataraman, A. & Kanamori, H. Effect of directivity on estimates of radiated seismic energy. J. Geophys. Res. 109 doi: 10.1029/2003JB002548 (2004)

Download references


We thank the working group of TCDP, including the drilling company FangYu and WonDa, the on-site assistants and more than 60 participating students from NCU and NTU, S. T. Huang at CPC for core storage and splitting, Y.-M. Chen of the NSRRC for taking TEM and TXM images, and K. S. Liang of the NSRRC. We also thank M. Zoback, S. Hickman, W. Ellsworth and H. Ito for discussion before and during drilling. We also thank H. Kanamori and E. Brodsky for discussions and a review of an early version of this paper. This project was supported by the NSC, Taiwan, and partially supported by the ICDP. Author Contributions K.-F.M., paper writing and project planning. H.T., core observation, data analysis and project planning. S.-R.S., petrographic and XRD analysis and project planning. C.-Y.W., J.-H.H., Y.-B.T., W.S., project planning. J.M., paper preparation. Y.-F.S., TEM and TXM taken at NSRRC and data analysis. E.-C.Y. and H.S., on-site geologists during coring. L.-W.K. and H.-Y.W., on-site assistants.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kuo-Fong Ma.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Table 1

The list of the observed particle sizes in diameters and the numbers of grains observed in each grain clast. (PDF 30 kb)

Supplementary Figure 1

SEM images of (a) 1 μm, (b) 100 μm and (c) OM images of 100 μm. (PDF 40151 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

Mineral composition of the major slip zone from X-ray diffraction for semi-quantitative analysis as composed of about 70% of quartz, 5% of Feldspar, and 25% of clay minerals with indication of Quartz (Q). (PDF 203 kb)

Supplementary Methods

This file contains additional details of the methods used in this study. (DOC 22 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ma, KF., Tanaka, H., Song, SR. et al. Slip zone and energetics of a large earthquake from the Taiwan Chelungpu-fault Drilling Project. Nature 444, 473–476 (2006).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing