Letter | Published:

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

Naturevolume 444pages473476 (2006) | Download Citation



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.

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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


  1. Department of Earth Sciences, National Central University, Chung-Li, 32054, Taiwan

    • Kuo-Fong Ma
    • , Chien-Ying Wang
    • , Jih-Hao Hung
    • , Yi-Ben Tsai
    •  & Hung-Yu Wu
  2. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan

    • Hidemi Tanaka
  3. Department of Geosciences, National Taiwan University, Taipei, 10617, Taiwan

    • Sheng-Rong Song
    •  & Li-Wei Kuo
  4. Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, Kyoto, 611-0011, Japan

    • Jim Mori
  5. National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center, Hsinchu, 30076, Taiwan

    • Yen-Fang Song
  6. Kochi Institute for Core Sample Research, Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Kochi, 783-8502, Japan

    • Eh-Chao Yeh
    •  & Wonn Soh
  7. Department of Geology and Mineraology, Kyoto University, Kyoto, 606-8501, Japan

    • Hiroki Sone


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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kuo-Fong Ma.

Supplementary information

  1. 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)

  2. Supplementary Figure 1

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

  3. 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)

  4. Supplementary Methods

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

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