Impact of topography and three-dimensional heterogeneity on coseismic deformation

Leah Langer, Hom Nath Gharti, Jeroen Tromp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Knowledge of deformation at plate boundaries has been improved greatly by the development of observational techniques in space geodesy. However, most theoretical and numerical models of coseismic deformation have remained very simple and do not include realistic Earth structure. 3-D material heterogeneity and topography are often neglected because simple models are assumed to be sufficient and available tools cannot easily accommodate complex heterogeneity. In this study, we demonstrate the importance of 3-D heterogeneity using a spectral element method that incorporates topography and 3-D material properties. Using a parabolic hill model and a topographic model of the 2010 Maule earthquake, we show that topographic features can alter the shape of observed surface deformation patterns. We also estimate the coseismic surface deformation due to a model of the slip distribution of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake using realistic topography and 3-D elastic structure, and find that the presence of topography causes changes in the shape of observed surface displacement patterns, while material heterogeneities primarily affect the magnitude of observed displacements. Our results show that the inclusion of topography in particular can affect predictions of coseismic deformation modelling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)866-878
Number of pages13
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 6 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Asia
  • Earthquake ground motions
  • Mechanics, theory, and modelling
  • South America


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