Change of crustal gravitational potential energy in the Taiwan orogen by the Chi-Chi earthquake sequence

Shu Kun Hsu, Chung Liang Lo

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12 Scopus citations


The active convergence between the northwest corner of the Philippine Sea Plate and the southeast margin of the Eurasian Plate has given rise to the Taiwan mountain-building and produced numerous earthquakes. Among the earthquakes, the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake is the largest one recorded in the century. In this study, we examine the crustal gravitational potential energy (GPE) change in the Taiwan orogen caused by the Chi-Chi earthquake sequence, which was catalogued by the regional broadband seismometer array for a whole year. As a result, we find that the crust was going up and down randomly during the earthquake sequence, but an overall cumulative gain of the crustal GPE, +1.82×1016 J, was rapidly achieved in 1 month after the main shock. The crustal GPE was nearly still afterwards and reached +1.90×1016 J in 1 year. Spatially, although the main surface faulting has occurred in western Taiwan, the crustal GPE gain is mainly distributed in central Taiwan at the area where the existing crustal GPE is high and the existing lithospheric GPE is relatively low. The crustal GPE loss by the Chi-Chi earthquake sequence can also be observed and is generally distributed at both sides of the crustal GPE gain area. The crustal GPE gain mainly found in central Taiwan corroborates that the uplift of the Taiwan orogen is principally taking place in central Taiwan, rather than in the more hazardous western Taiwan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-581
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 30 May 2004


  • Crust
  • Earthquake
  • Gravitational potential energy
  • Taiwan orogen


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