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Seismites in the Kathmandu basin and seismic hazard in central Himalaya

Abstract : Soft-sediment deformation structures have been analyzed at six sites of the Kathmandu valley. Microgranulometric study reveals that silty levels (60 to 80% silt) favor the development of soft-sediment deformation structures, while sandy levels (60 to 80% sand) are passively deformed. Nonetheless well sorted sand levels (more than 80% sand) generate over-fluid pressure during compaction if located beneath a silty cap, leading to fluidization and dike development. 3-D geometry of seismites indicates a very strong horizontal shearing during their development. Using a physical approach based on soil liquefaction during horizontal acceleration, we show that the fluidization zone progressively grows down-section during the shaking, but does not exactly begin at the surface. The comparison of bed-thickness and strength/depth evolution indicates three cases: i) no soft-sediment deformation occurs for thin (few centimeters) silty beds; ii) the thickness of soft-sediment deformation above sandy beds is controlled by the lithological contrast; iii) the thickness of soft-sediment deformation depends on the shaking intensity for very thick silty beds. These 3 cases are evidenced in the Kathmandu basin. We use the 30 cm-thick soft-sediment deformation level formed during the 1833 earthquake as a reference: the 1833 earthquake rupture zone extended very close to Kathmandu, inducing there MMI IX-X damages. A 90 cm-thick sediment deformation has therefore to be induced by an event greater than MMI X. From a compilation of paleo and historic seismology studies, it is found that the great (M ~ 8.1) historical earthquakes are not characteristic of the greatest earthquakes of Himalaya; hence earthquakes greater than M ~ 8.6 occurred. Kathmandu is located above one of the asperities that laterally limits the extent of mega-earthquake ruptures and two successive catastrophic events already affected Kathmandu, in 1255 located to the west of this asperity and in ~ 1100 to the east.
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Jean-Louis Mugnier, Pascale Huyghe, Ananta Prasad Gajurel, Bishal Nath Upreti, François Jouanne. Seismites in the Kathmandu basin and seismic hazard in central Himalaya. Tectonophysics, Elsevier, 2011, 509 (1-2), pp.33-49. ⟨10.1016/j.tecto.2011.05.012⟩. ⟨insu-00681343⟩



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