Earth Science Frontiers ›› 2021, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (2): 211-231.DOI: 10.13745/j.esf.sf.2020.9.8

Previous Articles     Next Articles

Paleoseismic investigation of the recurrence behavior of large earthquakes on active faults

LIU Jing1,2(), YUAN Zhaode2, XU Yueren3, SHAO Yanxiu4, WANG Peng2, XU Jing5, LIN Zhou6, HAN Longfei1   

  1. 1. Institute of Surface-Earth System Science, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Earthquake Dynamics, Institute of Geology, China Earthquake Administration, Beijing 100029, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Earthquake Prediction, Institute of Earthquake Forecasting, China Earthquake Administration, Beijing 100036, China
    4. Lanzhou Institute of Seismology, China Earthquake Administration, Lanzhou 730000, China
    5. The Second Monitoring and Application Center, China Earthquake Administration, Xi’an 710054, China
    6. School of Earth Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027, China
  • Received:2020-04-05 Revised:2020-06-01 Online:2021-03-25 Published:2021-04-03


Paleoseismology is a subdiciplinary study closely linked to active tectonics, earthquake geology, and tectonic geomorphology. It is field-based, aiming to reconstruct the location, time, and magnitude of paleoseismic events through the detailed documentation of the deformations caused by the events. Paleoseismic studies utilize the methods and means commonly used in the study of sedimentary stratigraphy, geomorphology, and structural geology to identify the evidence of prehistoric strong earthquakes preserved in well-dated Quaternary deposits. The instrumental record of earthquakes is much shorter than their return time on faults. Paleoseismology thus extends the record, providing fundamental data constraints on the spatio-temporal repetition of earthquake ruptures on faults, and facilitates the evaluation of the probability of earthquakes and their hazards. In this paper, we review the history, frontier research results, and future directions of the field. We first introduce the principle of paleoseismology, the history of its developments in the world and in China, and the basic methods used in paleoseismic research. We then summarize recent progress and frontiers in paleoseismic research, including developing new trenching techniques, quantifying the robustness of evidence in event identification, revealing the pattern of paleo-earthquake recurrence and coseismic displacement, and exploring shaking-related effects such as paleo-liquefaction and paleo-landslides. Finally, we briefly outline some future trends in paleoseismology. In future, we should further strengthen the application of quantitative evaluation of the uncertainty in event identification, continuously explore new dating techniques, and experiment with paleoseismology in virtual reality settings. In China, especially in North China where there is a long and precious historical record of earthquakes, innovative approaches combining historical accounts of shaking-related damages and field trenching will be fruitful.

Key words: paleoseismology, trenching, paleoseismic event, recurrence interval, coseismic offset, dating methods

CLC Number: